Relocating This Blog

I am in the process of divvying up the posts in this blog between several different websites. I’m even adding some new content in those places. There won’t be anything new here, and eventually this blog will be deleted.

Here you go:

  • AmericanTorah.com – Doing my part to bring America back to God & God’s Law.
  • Soil from Stone – Mostly archive, but I’m considering adding more content. I can’t seem to keep my thoughts to myself.
  • Answering Christian Objections – Not my site, but still lots of great content addressing common objections that Christians have to keeping Torah.
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Law and Grace, Circumcision and Passover

You have no doubt heard all your life about how Grace and Law are polar opposites, how you cannot be saved by Grace if you are committed to obeying the Law. This is directly contrary to the overall witness of Scripture. I will show you Grace and Law are not only not incompatible, but are absolutely necessary to each other.

Let’s start in Ezekiel 16:6:

And when I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you in your blood, Live! Yes, I said to you in your blood, Live!

Albert Barnes wrote,

In thy blood – may be connected either with “I said” or with “Live.” In the latter case, the state of blood and defilement is made the very cause of life…

So that the last phrase in the verse could be rendered, “Yes, I said to you, ‘Live through your blood.'” In other words, the blood brings life. But why does God say it twice?

In “Circumcision: The Individual’s Covenant with God” Rabbi Yohanasan Gefen wrote that each iteration of this statement refers to a different shedding of blood. The first statement refers to the circumcision of Abraham, while the second refers to the Passover Lamb.

The Calvinists will take issue with what I have to say next, but here it is anyway: Circumcision represents our decision to commit ourselves to God, while the Passover Lamb represents God’s decision to commit himself to us. Without both commitments, we are lost.

Circumcision was a physical manifestation of Abraham’s faith in God’s promises. He circumcised his flesh  and the flesh of all of the males in his house, including Ishmael, as an outward sign of his complete trust in God’s faithfulness.  However, circumcision in itself was not the means of Abraham’s salvation. It didn’t replace his faith, and the act of cutting himself did not cause God to keep his promise of an heir and a great inheritance.

Consider Ishmael. He was circumcised also, but he did not inherit the covenant. Many years before the circumcision, God promised Abraham a son. When he began to doubt, he tried to force God’s promise through his own power. Ishmael was conceived through his father’s mistrust of God and a reliance on works to earn God’s favors. Obedience alone will never be enough to warrant inclusion in the covenant with Abraham; one must also have faith.

But faith in what? In the Messiah Yeshua, our Passover Lamb whose blood covers us and takes away our sins. This is the ultimate inheritance of the children of Abraham, and the ultimate reason we must keep God’s Law.

We do not (cannot!) obey to earn God’s favor or to bribe or force him to keep his promises. God is faithful whether we are or not. No, we obey because we believe. If we believe in God’s faithfulness to provide an atonement for us and to forgive us our sins, then we will obey him. Obedience follows true faith, and there are only two reasons why a a person would not keep God’s Law:

1. Ignorance of his requirements, such as is the case with those many Christians who have been deceived their entire lives to believe that God didn’t mean what he said.
2.  Lack of faith. As James said, “Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” There is no such thing as faith without works. A lack of works always indicates a lack of faith.

As I have said over and over, this does not mean that anyone is saved by their works. Abraham did not circumcise himself before his faith, but because of it. We do not keep God’s Law to earn salvation, but because we are saved. Likewise, a person can be perfectly obedient to every point of the Law and still be eternally lost because they put their hope for salvation in obedience instead of in God’s faithfulness.

I can’t tell you how many sermons I heard growing up in the Assemblies of God about how the Law was replaced by Grace. Even at the time it all seemed a little hypocritical. If the Law was done away (or “fulfilled” away) why did Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, and others spend so much time talking about it? Why do we put the Ten Commandments up on the Sunday School walls?

The Bible was very little help. James clearly wrote that the Law was still in effect, and Peter wrote that you had to have a good foundation in the scriptures (the Law and the Prophets) in order to understand Paul’s letters. But why should an understanding of the Law be important to understand someone who spent so much ink telling us to forget the Law?

“Don’t take James so literally,” I was told. “He’s talking about a new spiritual law that has replaced the old written law.”

OK, but what about Peter? He couldn’t have been writing about spiritual scriptures. Scriptures means “writings”. If they only exist on a spiritual plane, how can they be written? And how could one study writings that aren’t written?

As I have demonstrated through numerous arguments, that was all so much hot air and wishful thinking. Grace and Law were never in opposition, but were always complementary. You cannot be saved by Grace unless you are first convicted by the Law, and you cannot be saved by God’s Grace unless you are also committed to obeying God’s Law. How can a person claim to believe in someone else if they refuse to believe what the other person has said?

Law and Grace are not opposed to one another, but are merely two sides of the same coin. If you are not committed to obeying God’s commandments, then you cannot be heir to his promises. And if you are not under God’s Grace, then all the obedience in the world will earn you nothing but damnation.

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Christians and the Law: answering the objections, part 21

This is the final installment in my response to Vox Day and those of the ilk who took exception to the idea that Christians might be obligated to keep God’s Law.

Statement 34: For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2:10)

Good luck trying to become righteous before God through the law…I wish you the best.

-JDC

JDC is equating “righteous” with “saved”, which isn’t entirely wrong. It’s just irrelevant. Whether or not a Christian is obligated to keep the Torah has nothing at all to do with whether or not keeping the Torah makes a person sufficiently righteous to merit salvation. Abstaining from murder doesn’t make one righteous in this sense either, but I don’t think JDC believes Christians are for that reason free to commit murder.

Statement 35: …I doubt very much [you] have begun to make the requisite animal sacrifices necessary to atone for [your sins]. -Daniel

It is not possible to make animal sacrifices right now. There is no temple, no altar, and no Levitical high priest. Therefore, obedience to Torah demands that we do not offer sacrifices.

Statement 36: If men were meant to be circumcised, we’d be born circumcised. It’s a revolting, primitive habit, almost as bad as female circumcision, and it should be illegal. -Bob Wallace

Bob, you crack me up. This comment doesn’t deserve the respect of a response, but I’m including it anyway for comic relief.

Allow me to apply Bob’s reasoning more broadly:

  • If men were meant to be saved, we wouldn’t be born in sin.
  • If women were meant to be married, they wouldn’t be born virgins.
  • If men were meant to speak, we’d be born with a full vocabulary.
  • If men were meant to fly, we’d have wings.
  • If women were meant to have babies, they’d be born pregnant.
  • If men were meant to have short fingernails, we’d be born with nails that don’t grow.
  • If babies were meant to have their umbilical cords removed, they’d be born without umbilical cords.

Really, Bob. Just because you don’t know, understand, or like the reason for something doesn’t mean it’s barbaric. It might also mean you are ignorant, stupid, or have poor taste.

part 19, part 20, part 21

Vox’s original article: Christians and the Law.

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Christians and the Law: answering the objections, part 20

In the comments to Vox’s original post, Tiger wrote,

Daniel: The New Testament says the purpose of the Law is to reveal sin. This lets us lead Holy Sanctified lives, but eliminating sin, cleaning as we go. Until the Law is written on our hearts, it is still needed. And, since Christians are NOT keeping the Law, it is obvious that it hasn’t been written there. Therefore, the New Covenant has not yet come, even though it has been promised and assured.

Daniel responded,

For the moment, I’ll disregard the failures in logic in the above, and simply demonstrate how they violate what is evident from scripture:

“The New Testament says the purpose of the Law is to reveal sin.”

Not quite right. It says the purpose of the Law is to prove a man guilty. (Romans 3:19-20)

“This lets us lead Holy Sanctified lives, but eliminating sin, cleaning as we go.”

No – no – no. You’ve gone way off the rails here, both according to Deuteronomy and St. Paul. Moses (in Deut) makes it very clear that the key is to keep every law to avoid sin, because once you broke off, only God in his mercy could cover it. A righteous man can no more cleanse himself of sin, than a hunter can unkill a deer. The law was provided so that a man might live, but its path was impossible to keep. Don’t forget that Abraham was saved (righteousness was credited to him) before the Law.

There’s no “cleaning as you go.”

“Until the Law is written on our hearts, it is still needed.”

Again, you are confusing scripture here. The Law passes away when its purpose (above) is fulfilled. Once a man is convicted of violating even the least commandment, it has achieved its purpose for him. This is why Jesus doesn’t change the law (add to it or subtract from it) – it needs to be the same for as long as man is on this earth: it is the yardstick by which all men fail.

Once an individual has failed it, he stands convicted. Jesus then fulfills the law by taking the punishment for sin.

Stop going through the motions of Law-keeping. It makes you a zombie slave to what Jesus Christ paid dearly to rescue you from, and denies His promise to complete the work in you.

-Daniel

Daniel was very specific and patient in his responses to Tiger, so I will return the favor by pointing out from Scripture how Daniel is clearly incorrect on every single point.

Statement 29:  The purpose of the law is not to reveal sin, but to prove a man guilty. (Romans 3:19-20)

Daniel speaks as if the Law can have only one purpose, but like everything else that God created, the Law has multiple dimensions and multiple purposes. Even if that were not so, Daniel’s objection would be nonsensical. How can anything prove anything without revealing it? Here is Romans 3:19-20, which Daniel cites as the basis of his statement:

Romans 3:19-20 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God: (20) because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law cometh the knowledge of sin.

It is evident from this passage (and others, such as Romans 7:7), that the only way the Law  proves a man’s guilt is by defining sin. As Paul explained in Romans 7, he was free to go on living as he pleased until the Law said, “Thou shalt not covet.” It is only through the revelation of sin that the Law proves guilt. This seems so self-evident to me, I find it difficult to find more words to express it: Nothing proves anything without revealing it. Therefore, if the Law proves a man guilty of sin, then the Law also reveals his sin. It can’t do one without the other.

Statement 30: Moses (in Deut) makes it very clear that the key is to keep every law to avoid sin, because once you broke off, only God in his mercy could cover it. -Daniel

If the Law defines sin, as we are told by several New Testament writers, it seems completely obvious that you must keep every law in order to avoid sin. Since we have all sinned, we are all condemned by our sin. I don’t dispute that. Tiger didn’t dispute that. I can only conclude that Daniel is making the same basic mistake that almost every antinomian makes when arguing this topic. (And in the process he concedes Tiger’s previous point that the Law reveals sin.) He is conflating salvation and sanctification. Let me break this same erroneous logic down once more:

Premises

  • The Law defines sin.
  • If you violate the smallest part of the Law, you have sinned.
  • Once you have sinned, you are condemned.
  • You cannot save yourself from your sins.

Conclusion

  • One should not try to keep any part of the law.

As stated, Daniel’s argument doesn’t add up. His conclusion is completely irrelevant to his arguments. Let me show you a parallel argument to illustrate what I mean.

Premises

  • Road maps define permissible driving routes.
  • There are no roads to take you from New York and London.
  • If you drive into the water, your car will stall and sink.
  • There is a large ocean between New York and London.

Conclusion

  • One should not try to drive anywhere.

Even the most simple minded among us can see why this conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises. What does the inability to drive from New York to London have to do with driving to other places? For this conclusion to be valid, one would also have to assume that the only possible reason someone would drive a car is to get from New York to London. But we all know that isn’t the case. People drive on roads for all kinds of reasons and to all kinds of destinations, and very few of them are related to London in any way.

So why is it so difficult for people to discuss the topic of Christians keeping the Law without assuming that the only reason anyone would ever want to keep the Law is to attain salvation?

Daniel’s conclusion is not only logically unsound and irrelevant to the discussion, it’s also hypocritical. I strongly suspect that he keeps many points of the Law every single day, and, just like almost every other self-described Christian, he almost certainly keeps some of those points primarily because the Law says to. Why then does he argue so vociferously and irrationally against the idea that he should keep the Law? Daniel is not alone in this.

At root this is not a logical argument.

There is a spirit of deceit at work in the Church that causes Christians to hear “You must keep the Law to be saved,” whenever anyone says “You must keep the Law.” For many people, I don’t believe it matters how many times we say that you cannot be saved by keeping Torah, they will still believe that we are saying you cannot be saved unless you keep the Torah. It’s a lie, but they will believe it because they are being deceived. There is no argument that will convince those people. We can only wait on God as we pray for their sight to be restored.

Statement 31: The Law passes away when its purpose (above) is fulfilled. Once a man is convicted of violating even the least commandment, it has achieved its purpose for him. This is why Jesus doesn’t change the law (add to it or subtract from it) – it needs to be the same for as long as man is on this earth: it is the yardstick by which all men fail.

Daniel appears to be saying that the Law passes away for each person once it has fulfilled its purpose for that person. This statement also contradicts numerous very plain statements in Scripture.

Yeshua said that not even the tiniest part of the Law will pass away until all is fulfilled and heaven and earth have passed away. The Law has multiple purposes, one of which is to convict us of sins. Therefore, the Law cannot pass away–even for one person–until all of its purposes have been fulfilled. Even assuming Daniel’s idea that the Law can pass away entirely for one individual while still being in force for another person, it cannot pass away for one simply because it has convicted him of sin. If so, then no Christian can sin again once they have been convicted and then forgiven. Paul’s statements about continuing to struggle against sin are nonsense. Yeshua’s threats against Christians in the Revelation are empty….Unless the Law continues to be a yardstick by which the failures of men are measured even after they are saved.

Does Daniel really believe that the God who declared “I change not” would have a definable standard of behavior for strangers, but not for his own children? The same God who said, “One law and one ordinance shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.”

Statement 32: Once an individual has failed the Law, he stands convicted. Jesus then fulfills the law by taking the punishment for sin.

Yeshua fulfilled the Law’s requirement of blood. However, he did not fulfill our ongoing obligation to obey his commandments. If a judge forgave you for speeding in a school zone and volunteered to pay your fine, if he swore to forgive you of every future offense and to pay every future fine for you, would that remove your obligation to obey the speed limit in school zones? That’s absurd. The judge would revoke his forgiveness and throw you in jail for contempt of court. That’s exactly what Yeshua has said he will do to those who abuse his love and forbearance  by willfully continuing to sin.

Statement 33: Stop going through the motions of Law-keeping. It makes you a zombie slave to what Jesus Christ paid dearly to rescue you from, and denies His promise to complete the work in you.

Yeshua did not pay dearly to rescue us from his own commands, and obeying him does not deny his promise to complete the work he started in us. What Daniel has forgotten is that “the work” includes the transformation of our behavior according to God’s standards.

No one is claiming that we can be perfect or attain perfect obedience under our own strength, but that doesn’t mean we are free to ignore God’s commands. Just because we can’t do everything perfectly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do some things better. Every day as we are enabled by knowledge, revelation, and the moving of God’s spirit in us we are to be better than we were the day before. We can never surrender to the world’s standards of behavior simply because the goal seems too far for human sight or legs. Our concern is to obey.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 This is the end of the matter; all hath been heard: fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.

part 18, part 19, part 20, part 21

Vox’s original article: Christians and the Law.

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Christians and the Law: answering the objections, part 19

Statement 27: No one except Jesus can keep the law. That’s the point.

We have all broken the law, we are all lawbreakers, rebels against God.

We are all sinners.

Which is why we need a savior.

Trying to keep the law is an eternal death sentence, for it is rejecting the sacrifice of Jesus.

-Josh

If I may paraphrase Paul…

We have all sinned (broken the law) and fallen short of the glory of God. While we were still unrepentant and hopeless sinners, God sent his Son to atone for us so that we might be forgiven and saved from our sins. If God has forgiven our sins and washed them away, are we now free to commit whatever sin we choose with complete impunity? I’m sure that Josh would agree with me that it would be absurd to reject all future moral behavior because God has forgiven our past immorality. Yet, this is exactly what Josh has argued. He said that trying to keep God’s Law is the same as rejecting the sacrifice of Jesus. If that is true, then we should sin as much as possible in order to embrace Jesus’ sacrifice to the full.

Of course, this isn’t what Josh meant. I am positive that he doesn’t believe only profligate thieves and murderers can derive any ongoing benefit from Yeshua’s death and resurrection. Josh committed a simple fallacy of generalization. Unfortunately, almost every single person who argues against Christians keeping Torah makes the exact same mistake. In essence, Tiger said “It’s good for Christians to keep the Law.” Josh (and just about everyone else) heard “A Christian can’t be saved unless he keeps the entire Law perfectly.” Trying to keep the law for salvation is an eternal death sentence, and if anyone had asserted it, Josh would have been entirely correct in what he said. But no one asserted it.

It is both wrong and hopeless to try to attain salvation through perfectly sinless behavior, but that is very far from saying that trying to attain more perfect behavior is itself a sin.

Statement 28: I think you are free to ignore all commandments that you aren’t already obligated to follow based on the dual commandment of love. In other words, one of them: Keeping the Sabbath. -Markku

Yeshua said that all of the Law is based on the “dual commandment of love.” On what basis can anyone exclude the Sabbath, which is exemplified in Genesis and repeatedly commanded in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy? It is at least as important a part of the Law as the command against committing murder. Furthermore, the command to keep the Sabbath is explicitly founded in love:

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as Jehovah thy God commanded thee. (13) Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; (14) but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Jehovah thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou. (15) And thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm: therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

part 17part 18, part 19, part 20part 21

Vox’s original article: Christians and the Law.

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Christians and the Law: answering the objections, part 18

Tiger: “If you claim to follow Jesus, then the Law of Moses is a must; for he kept the Law of Moses”

Statement 26: How’s that? Just because Jesus followed those Laws, how does that mean that we need to? -Northern Observer

Paul wrote,

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

If Paul said that the Corinthians (and we can assume all other believers) should emulate him and he emulated Yeshua, then wouldn’t we be emulating Yeshua when we emulate Paul?

It’s possible that Paul didn’t mean that we should emulate him in his specific behaviors but only in the way that he put the needs of others before his own needs as he described in the previous few verses (1 Corinthians 10:32-33). However, there are other scriptures that say the same thing:

1 Peter 1:13-16 Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; (14) as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance: (15) but like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; (16) because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy.

Yeshua is “he who called you”, so you are to be holy as Yeshua was holy. As evidence, Peter quoted Leviticus 11:44, in which God told the Israelites that they are not to eat unclean animals:

Leviticus 11:43-45  Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby. (44) For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. (45) For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

If Peter believed that being holy meant–in part–not eating unclean animals, it follows that when he warned his audience against the former lusts they followed in their ignorance, that he–at least in part–referred to that same sin. “Be holy in all manner of living,” he wrote. (The KJV says “conversation”, but in modern English this would be “behavior”.)

Paul also wrote:

Ephesians 4:11-15 And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: (13) till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; (15) but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ;

We are to continue learning to walk according to God’s ways, to continue being perfected in our manners of life and relationship until we have matured to be like him. How can we be like him if we refuse to behave as he did?

Being holy and being perfect are always defined by Scripture in one of two ways: atonement by God’s grace or keeping God’s Law. Usually the latter. Since the readership of each of the letters I quoted above had already received atonement, then keeping God’s Law is the only reasonable understanding of these expressions.

part 16part 17, part 18, part 19part 20

Vox’s original article: Christians and the Law.

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Christians and the Law: Answering the objections, part 17

Tiger wrote, “Until the Law is written on our hearts, it is still needed. And, since Christians are NOT keeping the Law, it is obvious that it hasn’t been written there. Therefore, the New Covenant has not yet come, even though it has been promised and assured.”

Josh, ever the Christian example, responded,

Statement 25: The new covenant has come, you blithering idiot!

That’s entire fucking point of Jesus’s life ministry, death, and resurrection!

He brought the new covenant. He tore the veil in the temple. He saved us from sin and death. He rescued us.

Josh’s objection is a very common one and also very easy to answer. It’s ubiquity testifies to the widespread ignorance of Christians concerning scripture and their almost complete reliance on the doctrines of men rather than the actual words of God and the prophets.

Here is the passage that most specifically promises the New Covenant:

Jeremiah 31:31-40 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (32) not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. (33) For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (34) And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (35) Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD of hosts is his name: (36) “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” (37) Thus says the LORD: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD.” (38) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when the city shall be rebuilt for the LORD from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. (39) And the measuring line shall go out farther, straight to the hill Gareb, and shall then turn to Goah. (40) The whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the LORD. It shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever.”

So these are the defining characteristics of the New Covenant:

  1. The covenant is with the houses of Israel and Judah.
  2. The Law will be written in the hearts of the Israelites and Jews.
  3. Israelites and Jews will not need to be taught about God because they will all know him intimately.
  4. The sins of Israelites and Jews will be completely forgiven.
  5. God will never completely reject the nation of Israel, including the Jews.
  6. Jerusalem will be restored and made sacred to God under a permanent peace.

These characteristics imply other things. Since all Jews will know God and since they were intended to be a nation of priests and a light to the rest of the world, those who would know God will go to the Jews as evidenced by Jeremiah 16:19 and Zechariah 8:23.

Jeremiah 16:19  O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: “Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.

Zechariah 8:23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

From the examples of Torah, from these prophecies, and from Paul’s writings, we can also extrapolate that the promises of the New Covenant and citizenship in Israel would be extended to gentiles. That doesn’t change the nature of the covenant, only its breadth.

This is the great inheritance we have gained through the Messiah. We are now joint heirs with Israel in the New Covenant. We have forgiveness of sins just like the Jews do.

But has God’s Law been written on our hearts? Do we no longer have to teach each other about God? Is Jerusalem free from danger? Obviously to all but the most delusional, Jerusalem is under constant threat of war. We do not have God’s Law written on our hearts. We still have to teach each other about God. Paul wrote that this great inheritance of a perfect knowledge of God isn’t yet ours.

Ephesians 1:13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (14) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

2 Corinthians 5:457 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (6) So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, (7) for we walk by faith, not by sight.

There are several steps in selling a house that are exactly analogous to the New Covenant. We have a signed contract, which is God’s promise of salvation. We have an earnest of the eventual fulfillment of the contract in the form of the Holy Spirit. But the terms of the contract haven’t been completed yet. Yeshua has paid the ultimate price for our salvation and restoration to the Father, but until we shed our mortal “tents”, we still walk by faith in the promise of our salvation and in imperfect knowledge of the Father. When we have the New Covenant in full, we will no longer have to walk by faith alone because we will see him face to face.

I only differ from Tiger’s statement in one respect: The Law will continue to be useful even after it is written on our hearts. Indeed, it will be more useful than ever.

part 15, part 16, part 17, part 18part 19

Vox’s original article: Christians and the Law.

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Christians and the Law: Answering the Objections, part 16

Statement 24: Jesus’ entire ministry on earth was centered around clarifying the law, and in many places he criticizes those who live by the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law. an example is the “good samaritan parable”. The laws were given to the Jews in order to keep the ceremoniously clean, and set aside for God. So when Jesus says that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, his blood sacrifice has fulfilled the spirit of the law by making us clean before God and setting us aside for him. I believe as much is stated in John 1:1-14.

I do not believe that Acts 15 is suggesting that Christians can lie, steal, etc etc because such things were not included in the letter. Rather I believe that as Jesus said, the sum of the laws and the prophets, the spirit of them, is to love the Lord you God will all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.

-Mr. B.A.D.

I don’t think that Mr. B.A.D. is very far from the truth here. Yeshua did spend much of his time correcting misunderstandings of the Law. God did give the Torah to Israel to set them apart from other peoples. Yeshua’s sacrifice did fulfill the spirit of the Law. The sum of the Law and the Prophets is to love God and neighbor.

But this is an incomplete understanding. Let’s look at each of these points in more detail.

Yeshua criticized those who live by the letter of the law
instead of the spirit of the law.

Mr. B.A.D. is talking about the Pharisees in particular, I think. Here are some of the specific complaints Yeshua had against them:

  1. They replaced the commandments of God with the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:9)
  2. They held others to a higher standard than that to which they held themselves. (Matthew 23:4)
  3. Their obedience was done mostly for show and not out of love for anyone but themselves. (Matthew 23:5-7)
  4. Their false teachings made it more difficult for anyone else to know the truth. (Matthew 23:13)
  5. They abused the poor and weak. (Matthew 23:14)
  6. They didn’t make disciples for God, but disciples for themselves. (Matthew 23:15)
  7. They had their priorities all wrong. (Matthew 23:16-22)
  8. They were scrupulous on the minutiae of the Law while they ignored the most important commandments. (Matthew 23:23-24)
  9. Their public behavior was at complete odds with their private behavior and with their hearts. (Matthew 23:25-31)

It seems to me that all of this can be summed up in a single word: hypocrisy. Their problem wasn’t that they were obsessed with the letter of the Law. Their problem was an obsessions with appearing to keep the Law. They were so concerned with this appearance that the Law itself wasn’t enough for them. They had to make up more and more rules to follow so that everyone could see how very righteous they were, but in adding to God’s Law they were breaking the very thing they pretended to keep. They were hypocrites from their white-washed facades to their rotted cores.

But in the end, Mr B.A.D. is entirely correct on this point. A preoccupation with the letter of the Law to the detriment of the spirit of the Law will destroy you. It is easy to get lost in the details and forget what is most important. The individual commandments are not the goal, but only individual stones in the road. The goal is Yeshua, and we would all do well to keep our focus on him rather than on precisely measuring our tithes of mint and cumin.

The laws were given to the Jews in order to keep them
ceremonially clean, and set aside for God.

The Law was given for many reasons, one of which was to keep the Israelites separate from the pagan nations around them. Paul wrote that it was also given to define sin for the whole world (Romans 3:19-20). Now that we are saved, are we supposed to forget what sin is? Of course not. The righteousness of Yeshua is not a license to sin.

Romans 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Now that we have been separated from the world through the action of Yeshua’s sacrifice, we demonstrate our gratefulness and maintain that separation by behaving differently than we behaved when we were still in sin.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (15) What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  (16) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,  (18)  and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.

So when Jesus says that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, his blood sacrifice has fulfilled the spirit of the law by making us clean before God and setting us aside for him.

When Yeshua died on the cross he fulfilled the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself more certainly than most of us ever will, but that doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility of continuing to love our neighbors as ourselves. Yeshua’s blood atones for us and removes us from under the condemnation of the Law, but that is still not a license to ignore God’s standards of behavior. He didn’t die so that we can eat bacon cheeseburgers and sleep with whomever we choose. He died so that we can have eternal life despite our failings.

Acts 15 is not suggesting that Christians can lie, steal, etc etc because such things were not included in the letter.

I agree, and this is something that many people overlook when they read that passage. For the sake of theological argument they interpret James’ ruling as the definitive list of moral behavior for Christians, but then say that Christians also have to keep a long list of other rules. This demonstrates that they don’t even believe their own arguments. Very few people actually think the apostles were really giving new converts permission to steal so long as they didn’t drink blood. The only logical conclusion is that the apostles were giving a starting point and expected the converts to continue learning and improving their behavior from there. What curriculum did they expect these gentiles to use for furthering their education in morality and religion? Torah.

Acts 15:21  For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.

The controversy in Acts 15 was never about whether the Law applied to gentiles, but about whether obedience to the Law was necessary for salvation.

Acts 15:1  But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Keeping the Law of Moses cannot save you. If viewed properly, it can improve your life, your community, and your relationship with God, but it can never save you from your sins.

part 14part 15, part 16, part 17, part 18

Vox’s original article: Christians and the Law.

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Christians and the Law: Answering the Objections, part 15

Although I will continue to label the comments to Vox’s original post as “statements”, Stickwick’s comment was actually two questions.

Statement 22: 1) How should Christians regard the ten commandments? (Not rhetorical; I really want to know.) -Stickwick

Paul told the Roman Christians that the Law defines sin. Without the written commandments, our ability to discern what is and is not sin is seriously hobbled. He specifically used one of the ten commandments to illustrate his point.

Romans 7:7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

The Ten Commandments are a summary of all of the rest of the Law, and they are in turn summarized by the Two Commandments (see part 14).

The Two Love God Love Neighbor
The Ten Have no other gods Do not covet
The Rest Do not boil a kid in its mother’s milk Do not put a sickle to your neighbor’s standing grain

Because we love God, we will have no other gods. If we have no other gods, we will not perform the particular pagan ritual in which a live kid is boiled to death in its mother’s milk. Because we love our neighbor, we will not covet those things that belong to him. If we do not covet our neighbor’s possessions, we will not steal his crops.

Every Christian knows –or ought to know–that sin is a bad thing. If that’s a point of contention, then we have much deeper problems than whether or not the Law defines sin. And if the Law defines sin as Paul and John both said, then it logically follows that we ought to be studying and keeping the Law. Not because a single mistake will send us to hell, but because we owe it to God. How can anyone say he loves God and then ignore his commandments? Or do they really believe that Paul was lying when he said that all of the commandments are summed up in love?

Statement 23: 2) As a relatively new convert, one thing that’s also confused me is how to answer people who ask why Christians include the Old Testament in the Christian Bible. I’ve encountered Jews who didn’t know that we include the Torah in the Christian Bible and study it in church. They were curious about this practice, but I wasn’t sure I had the correct explanation for them. Is it to establish the context for the New Testament? -Stickwick

One of the earliest major heresies that the Christian church had to deal with was called Marcionism. In some ways it was the opposite of the Judaizers that Paul dealt with through much of his ministry. Where the Judaizers added laws and traditions on top of God’s Law, the Marcionites threw out the entire Old Testament and much of the New as well. They taught that the God of the Hebrews was a malevolent deity who actually hated the Jews and gave them the Torah as a punishment. Jesus was a new God who overthrew the YHWH and all of his oppressive laws. They kept Paul’s writings because it was easy to twist his words around to justify their lawlessness. These were the people that Peter warned so strongly against when he wrote,

2 Peter 3:16 …There are some things in [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

This Marcionism is almost identical with the feel-good, no-rules Christianity of today. Marcion is alive and well in your home town and every place where Christians reject God’s word as outdated and superseded by a new gospel of “love” unfounded on any real principles or standards, but on feelings and that most deceitful of all voices: the heart.

What we call the Old Testament was the only set of scriptures the first century church had for many years. The apostles referred to them constantly throughout their letters. Yeshua preached from the Torah and the Prophets. Indeed much of the New Testament is completely incomprehensible without a solid foundation in the Old Testament.

The thing that baffles me is that most Christian churches understand this and yet they still fall for the same old lies. It’s truly a spiritual psychosis.

part 13, part 14, part 15, part 16, part 17

Vox’s original article: Christians and the Law.

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Christians and the Law: Answering the Objections, part 14

Statement 20: This is just as ridiculous as the discussion about time dilation with “Outlaw X” in Blind faith in science. Some people are just unable to understand how things work, no matter how much evidence is presented to them.

Einstein’s theory of relativity rests on two principles:
1. The equivalence of intertial frames of reference, and
2. The speed of light is constant in all inertial frames of reference.

That’s it.

The relationship of Christians to the Law likewise rests on two principles:
1. Death ends the jurisdiction of the Law.
2. A Christian was crucified with Christ and thereby died with Him.

The conclusion is obvious. Such explanations such as “the ceremonial law ended in 70 AD” and so on are neither true nor necessary.

-wrf3

I like the way wrf3 puts this. Very simple and clean. Also very wrong. Actually, he’s right about the ceremonial law invention, but not about whether the Law applies to Christians. That’s more-or-less the problem with everything he said: it’s half truth. I don’t mean that he is lying. He probably just doesn’t fully understand his own premises. To illustrate what I mean, I’ll apply the same reasoning to a very similar, but more contemporary situation:

1. Release from prison and probation ends the jurisdiction of the corrections department.
2. A man who has served his time was released from prison without probation.
Therefore, that man is no longer under any obligation to obey the law.

That sounds great if you don’t know what the corrections department or prison or the law is, but if you know what those things are, it all sounds a little silly. Just because we who have put our trust in Yeshua are not under the custody of the Law doesn’t mean the Law no longer applies to us. The New Testament writers sometimes used the term “under the Law” to denote being under the jurisdiction or condemnation of the Law. Yeshua’s death and resurrection changes one important thing for us in relation to the Law: We are no longer obey God’s Law out of fear of condemnation, but out of love for our God and Savior.

See the previous installments in this series for more details.

—–

Statement 21: I think many here would agree that any ‘rules’ that Christians need to follow are based on Christ’s two ‘greatest commandments’. i.e. “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” -Northern Observer

N.O. was completely right. I think thateveryone involved in the discussion at Vox’s blog would agree with these two quotes. Here is the original source for those two commandments:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Leviticus 19:17-18 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. (18) You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

And here is one of the passages from which we know them as “Christ’s two ‘greatest commandments’.”

Matthew 22:36-40 ”Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (37) And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (38) This is the great and first commandment. (39) And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (40) On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

These were not new commandments. Yeshua was quoting the Torah, and the Jews of that day knew them very well. But what does it mean for the law to depend on these two commandments? It means two things. First, it means that all of the rest of the Law is meaningless if we don’t keep these two. We know this from the lawyer’s response to Yeshua:

Mark 12:32-33 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. (33) And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Second, it means that all other commandments can be summed up in these two. Unfortunately, we do not understand love the way we should. If we did, God could have simply given us those two commandments and left it at that. He gave us all the rest to teach us what it means to love. Yeshua, Paul, and James told us this:

Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” [Yeshua]

Romans 13:8-10 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (9) For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (10) Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. [Paul]

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. [James]

If you love the Father, if you love the Messiah, if you love your neighbor, you will keep the commandments (John 14:15, 1 John 5:3).

part 12,part 13, part 14,part 15, part 16

Vox’s original article:Christians and the Law.

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