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May 18, 2007

Comments

I've always wondered how this applies to the current culture war. America as a Nation is not in covenant with God, so blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience aren't guaranteed in the same way they were to Israel. Yet at the same time, it seems like Just laws that reflect biblical truth are better for us than laws that do not. Just wondering how this plays
out now.

Thanks for this post btw. It was very clear and it helped me understand some issues i've been a bit confused about.

Then why do christians make a big deal about the ten commandments?

Because it's a classic movie, Tony.

I was reading Acts the other day (around chapter 21-23) and Paul calls Ananias a white wash crypt...then Paul finds out Ananias was the High Priest. Paul apologizes and cites the old testament law in Exodus that you shouldn't speak badly against your leaders.

It seemed really weird that Paul calls himself a Pharisee, then demonstrates that he's under the OT law so he doesn't act as though it's vanished, though he (and we) keep claiming we don't live under it any more.

I don't know where I stand on this because Bahnsen wrote this great book called "By This Standard" basically reinstating OT law.

I think we have a huge cultural fear of accepting the theology that the OT law might be practiced and we'll have to kill homosexuals as well as honoring our father and mother. I think we all culturally prefer that the OT laws are fulfilled and we are no longer obligated to stick to them. This would make it strange that we only practice the death penalty and leave the others, like mandatory sabbath observation behind.

If Paul doesn't curse his terrible leaders then what does that say about us? I've been meaning to ask if a German under Hitler had to respect HIS leader since that law in exodus doesn't seem to be mitigated by tyrants...Daniel didn't attempt to assassinate Nebucaddnezzer (sp. sorry).

I see participating in government as just another good work we should perform. It's legal, it's part of our duty and we should do it unto the Lord. If you look back at Christian leaders like Constantine or non-Christians like Jefferson it seems God is neutral on which is better. God appeared to look down on Caesar and kind of yawn at the thought of taking over the world's politics.

Doug,

Paul in many ways seems more interested in the principles taught by the law rather than the actual details of it. Consider his stance on circumcision for instance, or his stance on eating food sacrificed to idols.

Also, consider that in the passage you mentioned it may be that Paul is using it as a segue and a sly put down as it should have been obvious to him who the high priest at his trial was.

I don't know I can't really speak with certainty on it.

The meaning to the individual also comes into play and so Paul really opens things up to interpretation and to the mitigation of the situation.

Before I give anyone the wrong impression, the NT take on OT law is not owed entirely to Paul and actually has basis with Jesus, who, for instance, would work on the Sabbath.

Tony,

I do think that for Christians to focus on the Ten Commandments is a little misguided. I don't want them to disappear, but I would like to see more stress on the two greatest commandments.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

I think this is precisely why trying to peg modern day Israel with any prophetic significance is absurd. Either we're under the New Covenant, or we're not. It's not a little of the Old commingled with the New. Israel the Nation today is significant only in that it's a nation; the Old Covenant was forever abolished, physically, in 70 A.D. The Church is Israel and God's Law is written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

"Before I give anyone the wrong impression, the NT take on OT law is not owed entirely to Paul and actually has basis with Jesus, who, for instance, would work on the Sabbath."

GREAT stuff Alvin,
the only reason why I give more weight to Paul than Christ is because Christ has the excuse of being God on Earth, how the Author of the law views it seems different doctrine than the most authoritative first century Christian...and believe me, I'm a reluctant fan of Paul.

Perry, I'm a partial preterist and even I don't completely dismiss modern Israel. The Mosaic law has been cast in a new light but it's unclear if Abraham's covenant has been changed. Regardless, I have a hard time completely rejecting Israel because they are like great grandparents in the same way that I see the Catholic Church as grandparents to my faith.

Politically, Israel is critical to our presence in the Middle East. They are unfairly oppressed and we stand by our allies.

Doug- It is clear to me, from Paul, that Abraham's Covenant has been eclipsed by the New. God is not a racist, and it makes no sense in light of Scripture that genetics have any bearing on anything under Christ's covenant. The ability to determine "Jewishness" today is largely lost due to centuries of diaspora and intermarriage, which further weakens the argument for modern day Israel as Biblically significant, IMHO.

Okay, someone help me out. Matthew 5:17-18:

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."

I'm confused about this passage and how it relates to this post and the article linked within. Can anyone help me? Is Jesus saying that the Law is still in effect? What does this mean?

I think that given that it seems that most of us are gentile believers (forgive me if I'm wrong in that assumption,) we need to keep in mind the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15. The Ten Commandments give us a picture of how God would have us live out the Great Commandment, the Mosaic law was a covenant between God and Israel.

I think the article addresses many of the questions being brought up here, so if you haven't read it yet, do.

Michael, that's a good question, and one I've had to work through and am still working through. People have different ways they answer this, but here are my thoughts so far: Matthew is very focused on true righteousness. This is his underlying theme throughout the book. The Pharisees tried to follow the rules, but they lacked a deeper, true righteousness that involved more than just outward behavior. Fully following the law would have meant perfect righteousness and perfect love for God and man. They could try to attain that through following the rules, but the standard would always be unyielding and too high for them to achieve. Nothing in the Law was going to be winked at by God if someone transgressed it.

If anyone tried to lessen the perfection of the Law by trying to take something away or by teaching one of people that part of the Law wasn't important to their covenant with God, they would be lessening the righteousness of God and lowering His standard. Jesus was trying to show the people their need for a righteousness beyond what they could attain. Paul explains later in Romans 3 that the Law reveals our lack of true righteousness--this is what Jesus is trying to get across to those who were adjusting rules in order to make a lower standard of righteousness that they could attain. The true standard is unyielding.

Jesus concludes that passage with, "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Now take a look at what I said about Romans 7:1-6. It says that when we die with Christ, we are released from the previous contract and joined with Christ. Christ had a "righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees." He fulfilled the Law by perfectly loving God and his neighbor, and when we are joined to Him, His righteousness and perfect fulfillment of the Law covers us, and so we are able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven--without lowering God's standard.

This is the only way we could accomplish this because God's perfect standard (whether expressed through the Old Testament Law or in any other way) will NEVER be compromised in the smallest way in order to let someone slide into the Kingdom.

Quote: "I have a hard time completely rejecting Israel because they are like great grandparents in the same way that I see the Catholic Church as grandparents to my faith."

I could understand this if modern Israel was in some way connected to the Church. But I see no connection. They resemble America more than Israel of old. Nevertheless, old Israel was destroyed. The Old Covenant was eclipsed by the New. Any backsliding into the Old, or linking significance to physical elements of the Old Covenant, to me diminshes Christ's sacrifice.

Michael,

The Law is obviously a long list of statutes about what to do and what not to do.

Keep in mind that the law is also a contract. As Deuteronomy 37:47 "They [God's statutes and decrees] are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess." The phrase "live long in the land" appears in similar promissory fashion 5 times in Deuteronomy and 1 time in Exodus.

Also important is that the law provides an interpretive guide to many New Testament passages.

That point being that there is more reason that the law must be preserved as a text than just keeping an orderly society.

There seems to be a tremendous amount of confusion regarding what is and is not in effect when it comes to the law in the OT. I think that the confusion is really unwarranted. All of the law is in effect, but not for everyone. Those of us who are saved by grace through Christ are under grace, not the law. Those who have rejected God's grace are under the law by their own choice. So, the law applies to to the unsaved and grace to those who have been saved by grace through Christ. Understanding the line drawn between the two shoud go a long way toward clearing up the confusion.

"Those who have rejected God's grace are under the law by their own choice. So, the law applies to to the unsaved and grace to those who have been saved by grace through Christ. Understanding the line drawn between the two shoud go a long way toward clearing up the confusion."

So because the law applies to the unsaved I don't have to honor my parents. Why didn't Paul eat meat sacrificed to idols? Why did he observe the law in Exodus not to disrespect your leaders...even the high priest of Jews of all things?

"So because the law applies to the unsaved I don't have to honor my parents. Why didn't Paul eat meat sacrificed to idols? Why did he observe the law in Exodus not to disrespect your leaders...even the high priest of Jews of all things?"

I think you are having difficulty understanding the purpose of the law and grace. The right behavior and attitude for the unsaved flows from the threat of the law(it is response to threat of consequences). The right behavior and attitude for the saved flows from God's grace(it is a response of grattitude). The unsaved find fear compelling to action and the saved find grace compelling to action in both attitude and behavior. What you may notice that both lead to the same outcome...one of obedience to God's laws. It is God's way of dealing with two types of person to generate identical outcome in each case...a peaceful orderly society in which His grace can have an opportunity of spreading to everyone. This is prefectly consistent with His character which is such that He is not willing that any should perish, but all come to repentence.

Thanks, Louis that makes a lot more sense.

The god changes your attitude.

That's what gods do.

Amy I dug your post, and I think it would be a completely satisfactory analysis of the role of Christians in the world if we did not live in a republic where we get to vote to elect representatives which are to "represent" our values and ideas in the public square. I am left wondering how to see our roles as Christians in a democratic republic. Do we for instance leave our uniquely Christian values out of our political decisions? That seems intuitively a morally negligent way to approach our roles in our republic. Another way it seems to approach this issue is to consider ourselves as Christians ambassadors for God in the world (as str tries to train people to be), and as such that our political decisions are bound to what we believe God would want done politically. That also seems to be a wrong way to approach our role as political entities in this great country for the exact same reasons you mention in your posting. Therefore, I seem at a loss in how to work out my Christian identity as a political entity and wonder if you would comment on this further.

I think that as a derivative of Christianity, a product of the history of Christianity, the west has developed institutions that respect the individual.

Christianity places the utmost importance on the individual.

They say Jesus would have died for you if you were the only person on the planet to be saved.

You might say, we "value" the individual, the individuals rights and their dignities.

So you get laws and institutions that protect individuals.

That is the "movement" of God in history.

That is how Hegel conceived God or Spirit "acting" in history, becoming involved, or staying actively involved in history, through the incarnation of christian values in our institutions. This is how an "imminent" God acts in history.

However America, and the west, is also a product of its other "grand-parent"...the Greeks.

When we "think" we think Greek...because they defined thinking...so we retain the philosophical tradition from them.

The institution to evolve from Greek values and practices is "the university"...(and the olympics)

The Greeks instituted courts very similar to modern american courtrooms. (Athena does it in the Oresteia) And we have retained their influence in our legal system.

Thank you Amy, and Alvin. Good insight that makes sense. This post has cleared up a ton for me in my walk with Christ. I was just talking with my friends last night about how easy it is for me to be legalistic. It's just the way I think, I suppose. But somehow knowing of my union with Christ, and our new covenant with Him, is very freeing.

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

John 8:36

Perry said: "God is not a racist, and it makes no sense in light of Scripture that genetics have any bearing on anything under Christ's covenant."

Someone has been listening or reading too much Bible Answer Man. ;)

I really was disappointed in his book. He never really did address the solid leaders in the Dispensationalist movement such as Ryrie. That and he was pretty harsh on Israel in his book at times. I have a Christian friend that reports from Israel on a regular basis and I think Hank doesn't really have any idea what it's like over there. Feel free to check out my site to see what she has to say.

I recommend a great book edited by Wayne Strickland, "Five Views on the Law and Gospel". In it, the five views are given and then critiqued by the other interlocuters that have written thier own view in the book. The essayists are Wayne Strickland, Walt Kaiser, Greg Bahnsen, Douglas Moo and Willem A. Van Gemeren. This is an outstanding resource - a must have for those that want a depth of understanding that no one view could give. I have also read "From Creation to the Cross" and it is indeed an excellent book.

The original concern seemed to be with the penalty for adultery and not the wrongness of adultery.

It seems to me that the law still stands but the penalty may or may not. On what grounds does a Christian accept or reject the old testament penalty? Louis K. touched on one approach but I don't think it really provided the answer.

I personally don't know any Christian that is advocating the old testament penalty so I am not sure where this fear expressed in the post is coming from.

"I personally don't know any Christian that is advocating the old testament penalty so I am not sure where this fear expressed in the post is coming from."

William, that's what I was thinking too. Since we're talking about laws in our government there needs to be a "rightness" about punishments fitting the crime. I guess my confusion comes from seeing the OT law as something used to govern the body instead of demonstrating that man is fallen and hopeless without Christ.

If we don't have to observe the OT law because we are freed by grace, why is the punishment for OT law not relieved when someone lies or murders? If the grace economy is true, useful, beneficial and Godly then why not implement grace at the government level and dismiss all crimes if the perp' repents?

I'm a partial preterist and believe the purpose of Israel is best described as passed...but I still don't understand why PAUL who represents the new Christian economy appears to beholden to the law when standing before Rome or the High Priest among the Jews.

I think this vague view of the law allows modern Christians to cherry-pick laws we like (jailing drug dealers) and rejecting ones we don't like (death penalty for blasphemy).

Can anyone shed some light on this? (by 'anybody' I mean 'anybody but Tom')

Doug,

The Arnold Fruchtenbaum article explains some of what you are asking about. In it he says that the OT presents several covenants. That punishment is not reduced for some crimes may be that the law stipulating punishment is found outside of the repealed covenant with Moses.

The punishment for murder, for instance, is part of the Noahic covenant found in Genesis chapter 9. This covenant differs from the Mosaic covenant in that it is not in any way presented as conditional.

This explains some of the semblance of cherry-picking.

"If we don't have to observe the OT law because we are freed by grace, why is the punishment for OT law not relieved when someone lies or murders? If the grace economy is true, useful, beneficial and Godly then why not implement grace at the government level and dismiss' all crimes if the perp' repents?"


Doug,
I think that the trouble with this is contained in your question: :If the perp repents.
Not being God, we as men are not likely to know if his repentance is genuine. God, on the other hand, is in a unique position to KNOW such a thing. I think there might be an argument against running government as a theocracy here. It is because of our shortcoming that makes the model you propose impractical.

Quote: "Someone has been listening or reading too much Bible Answer Man. ;)"

Actually, I came to this position years before Hanegraaf expressed it. I was turned to preterism by R.C. Sproul's "The Last Days According to Jesus."

Whether I'm a full, or partial preterist, I will not say. There are elements of full preterism that really appeal to me, though I'm not fully committed to the notion of Christ having already returned in 70 A.D.

Doug,

>>but I still don't understand why PAUL who represents the new Christian economy appears to beholden to the law when standing before Rome or the High Priest among the Jews.

I understand your confusion. The answer actually lies in 1 Corinthians from Paul's own pen. His motivating principle was not an obligation to the law per se (he was free from that) but an obligation to the people with whom he was interacting in that specific situation. He voluntarily gave up his liberty so as not to be a stumbling block for the Jews. I don't have much time right now to elaborate, but go read chapters 8-10, especially 9:18-23 and 10:32 (quoted below), and let me know if you'd like me to say more. Hope this helps.

18What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

19For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.

20To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;

21to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.

22To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.

23I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

---------------------------

32Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;

And this is key:

21to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.

We're supposed to honor God with our behavior. His moral nature still exists, and we ought to conform ourselves to it, even if we're not under the specific stipulations of the contract God made with the Israelites. (Note that whenever Paul talks about our need to "walk in a manner worthy of the calling," he always seems to precede the discussion with an explanation of what Christ has done--i.e., the deeds flow out of the salvation from Christ, they don't lead into it.) I thought the article did a good job of addressing this. And thanks, Patrick, for pointing us to that book. The view I've stated here is not the only view of the Law, and it would be good for people to consider all the views.

Thanks Aaron and Amy, I'll read up and see if that clears things up.

…"All I said was that meal was good enough for Jehova himself"...

Dang!

I've been benched!

Doug,

You're welcome. BTW, that looked weird to me - my wife's name is Amy :)

I love the whole Israel=The Church metaphor...

I wonder how the Jews feel about that. Ah...who cares.

The idea that anyone who wasn't Jewish could be Christian is a funny story, prartly because it had to do with circumcision.

Finally Paul said it was enough to have your heart circumcized.

Anyone want to play the part of spirit team leader and tell me what in the heck it means to have your heart circumcized!

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