Christians and the Law: Answering the Objections, part 12

Statement 17: Paul tells us in Romans that the Gentiles who have no law do by nature what law empells them to do so they are a law unto themselves. -Freddy

Here is the passage to which Freddy is alluding:

Romans 2:14-16 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. (15) They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (16) on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

Paul said that gentiles are a law to themselves, that they have the Law written in their hearts, so far as they do what the Law requires. In other words, if gentiles do not do what the Law requires, they are not a law to themselves and do not have the Law written on their hearts. The only difference here between Jews and gentiles is that the Jews have the advantage of having the Law written on paper, so that even when their hearts lie to them–as all human hearts always do–they can read the word to see exactly what God said. If someone without the written Law ignores their conscience, eventually they abuse it to the point where it is no longer even capable of speaking the truth to them (Romans 1:18-32). All they hear from their hearts from that time on is lies. Those who have the Torah, on the other hand, have a means of correcting their behavior despite their seared consciences through prayer, study, and discipline. In time, the Holy Spirit can heal them and restore those aspects of the Law that are written on our hearts from within the womb.

—–

Freddy has been getting all the attention. It just isn’t fair! Time to move on to someone else…

Statement 18: It is also impossible to remove all blood from your food. Microscopic traces will remain.

Tiger, do you eat your steaks well done, to remove all the blood? Sorry, still some left in there.

-stg58

Spot on, stg58. It is impossible to remove all of the blood from an animal. And, aside from the small amount of blood that drips out, cooking doesn’t remove any blood at all. Cooked blood is still blood. Does that mean it’s impossible to obey God’s commandment not to eat blood? Of course not. He told Israel that obedience was not too hard for them. Unless God was lying, it is not impossible to obey the command not to eat blood. All you have to do is ask God how.

Asked and answered. God gave more details on how to remove blood from an animal:

Leviticus 17:13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth.”

Draining the blood from a shot animal doesn’t remove every drop of blood from the muscle tissues, so that must not have been God’s intended meaning. Bleeding the animal either at the time of death or immediately after is sufficient to remove the blood for the purposes of the commandment. If there is still some blood in the animal after bleeding it–as there always will be–then that is God’s problem to deal with. Your job is to obey his instructions. It’s his job to deal with the consequences of that obedience.

part 10part 11, part 12part 13, part 14

Vox’s original article: Christians and the Law.

Posted in Keeping Torah, Theology, Torah, Vox Day vs Torah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Christians and the Law: Answering the Objections, part 12

Christians and the Law: Answering the Objections, part 11

In which I address statements 12-16.

Freddy made five statements in a single comment to Vox’s Christians and the Law post. Let’s take them one at a time.

Statement 12: Ceremonial laws ultimately abrogated when the Temple was destroyed in AD70. -Freddy

I’m not really sure what to think of Christians basing theology on historical events rather than on the clear statements of God. Is it appropriate to call yourself a Christian when you don’t even believe what Christ said? (Matthew 5:18)

—–

Statement 13: Dietary laws abrogated by Christ himself telling Peter don’t “call what I have called clean, unclean.” -Freddy

Which might be a valid point if Christ had ever declared all previously unclean animals now clean. He did not. I addressed this objection in part 6 (and eventually a post on Mark 7:19) so I won’t go into a lot of detail again. I’ll just remind Freddy that Peter himself explained that God told him not to call people common or unclean when God has made them clean. The unclean animals in Peter’s vision represented gentiles in the same way that the cattle and grain in Pharaoh’s dreams represented years.

—–

Statement 14: Judicial laws are not enforced currently given this secular system that governs us. -Freddy

Freddy made a good point here, although I can’t tell if he knows why. The criminal laws embodied in Torah are not meant to be enforced by vigilantes. They require a court system and the cooperation of the entire community and existing government. The average citizen in a country that does not recognize God’s Law cannot simply pick up a spear and begin skewering open homosexuals at will. Torah requires due legal process, including judges, witnesses, and an appeals court. Until our government is willing to enforce God’s Law or until we, the people, are willing to replace our government, Torah dictates that we are unable to enforce it on other people–those parts that are intended to be enforced on others, that is. The rest is to be enforced by self-discipline or by God himself.

—–

Statement 15: Do consider that if one thinks it is barbaric to call for the execution of a violator of said law then what does it say about the giver of that law? -Freddy

This is perhaps one of the most cogent arguments in favor of Christians keeping Torah. God is not evil. He did not intend evil on the Israelites by giving them the Torah. He told them repeatedly that obedience to the Torah brings life, that circumcision, the stoning of adulterers, the execution of homosexuals, and the sacrificial system are all blessings. Torah tells us a great deal about the character of God, and if we call God’s blessings “weak and miserable,” what are we saying about God?

—–

Statement 16: The moral law is still binding on all mankind….until heaven and earth pass away. Paul us so much in the Romans 1 and 2. -Freddy

Once again, I completely agree with Freddy on this point. However, I don’t think he really thought through the implications. It’s a remarkable thing to say only three sentences after declaring that the “dietary” and “ceremonial” laws have passed away. There is no moral vs ceremonial vs dietary in the Torah. Those are purely man-made distinctions. Since God defines morality, all of God’s Law is the Moral Law. And since Yeshua said that not one jot or tittle shall ever pass away (be removed, abrogated, annulled, destroyed, etc.) from the Law until heaven and earth pass away and all is fulfilled, then whatever laws there are within the Torah, they are all still as valid today as they were in 1000 B.C.

This is typical of the self-serving interpretations of scripture so common among Christians. We all do it to one extent or another. It’s human nature. I just hope that when it is pointed out to us, we are able to recognize it and suppress it.

part 9part 10, part 11, part 12part 13

Vox’s original article: Christians and the Law.

Posted in Kashrut, Keeping Torah, Theology, Torah, Vox Day vs Torah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Christians and the Law: Answering the Objections, part 11

Christians and the Law: Answering the Objections, part 10

Statement 11: Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

How is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

-Daniel

Context, context, context. Modern Christians hear too many sermons and don’t do enough studying and thinking.

Daniel is alluding to a couple of Paul’s statements in the Letter to the Galatians. Just like Northern Observer and Toby before him, he ignored the context and re-interpreted these statements to mean something other than what Paul intended. This isn’t entirely Daniel’s fault. His teachers all likely did the same thing. Here is the original passage:

Galatians 3:21-29  Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.  (22)  But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.  (23)  Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.  (24)  So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.  (25)  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,  (26)  for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  (27)  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  (28)  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29)  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 4:1-11  I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything,  (2)  but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.  (3)  In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.  (4)  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  (5)  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  (6)  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  (7)  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  (8)  Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.  (9)  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?  (10)  You observe days and months and seasons and years!  (11)  I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

By reading and quoting small bits of this letter out of context Christians are able to say that the Law is irrelevant to them, that they don’t need to keep God’s Laws as he gave them to Moses. Paul wrote that no one can be saved by keeping the Law, and Christians point to that and say, “See? Paul said we don’t need to keep the Law.” This is nonsense. It’s like saying we don’t need pens and paper to do our jobs because we didn’t need them to get to the office on time. Just because you don’t need to keep the Law to be saved, doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep the Law after you are saved. The one simply doesn’t follow from the other.

I am going to deconstruct this passage much as I did the one from Hebrews in part 8, paraphrasing and amplifying one piece at a time. First, I want to establish the reason that Paul included this discussion in his letter at all.

Galatians 1:6-7 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– (7) not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

After Paul had introduced the Galatians to faith in Yeshua some other people came and began giving them a false teaching. But what was the false teaching? Rather than stating it outright, Paul summarized his own ministry of the past 20 years. He wrote of how he had once persecuted the Christians, but was converted by a miraculous encounter with Yeshua, after which he began preaching the gospel to gentiles. Many years later, some Pharisees had infiltrated the Christian congregations and were insisting that the gentiles should be circumcised and keep the whole Law before they could be considered true members of the congregation. Again he traveled to Jerusalem to confer with the apostles, and they agreed that salvation was not by circumcision and works, but by faith. That controversy was not about whether gentiles should keep the Law or learn it; it was only about justification. (See part two for a more detailed discussion of that event.) Later, Peter visited the congregation in Antioch. While there, he sat and ate with gentiles and Jews alike, but when some Jews arrived from Jerusalem, he stopped eating with the gentiles. Paul confronted him about it because Peter’s own vision had shown him that he should not hesitate to fellowship with gentiles. Besides that, there was nothing in the Mosaic Law to prevent a Jew from eating with a gentile. That was only a law invented by men and was never from God.

Galatians 2:15-21 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; (16) yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (17) But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!

At this point Paul clearly established that he was not writing about living a good life of upright behavior, but about eternal spiritual justification: “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Yeshua the Messiah.” Paul said even though he and the apostles were Jews they knew that they were saved in the same way as the gentiles: through faith in Yeshua, and not by works of the Law. But as James pointed out, this did not stop them from keeping the Law, only in relying upon it for their salvation (James 2:18).

Galatians 2:18-19  For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. (19) For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

This thing that Paul is writing against is the same thing that he had previously torn down, but what was that thing? Not the Law itself as he repeatedly pointed out in the Letter to the Romans, but rather the legalism of attempting to earn salvation through obedience to the Law. To go back to depending on the Law for salvation when it was never sufficient either before or after the cross would be counterproductive in the extreme.

Having established that the controversy in Galatia was not about how people ought to live, but how they are to be saved, let’s skip ahead to the passage Daniel quoted.

Galatians 3:21  Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

There is no conflict between Law and Grace if they are both used properly. God’s promise of salvation is alluded to in the Law, but is not provided for by the Law. Put another way, the Mosaic Law was never intended to save anyone from sin that has already been committed. There are provisions in it for enabling sinners to approach God despite their sin, but there is no provision to permanently remove sin. That was never its purpose. Total righteousness–the complete absence of sin–is not possible under the Mosaic Law and never was. (Of course, there is another kind of righteousness that comes from obedience to the Law, unless Moses was lying in Deuteronomy 6:25. That is not the righteousness that Paul was addressing here. It is transient, of no permanent value. Paul intended a greater righteousness that goes beyond mere actions of the flesh.)

(22)  But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

The Mosaic Law (what Paul referred to here as graphe, translated variously as “document” or “writing”) written on stone and parchment would not have been necessary if we were able to maintain God’s standards perfectly. It’s very existence proves that we are imperfect. Because we are sinners, God gave us the Law to teach us how to behave, and also to serve as a witness and judge against us in our sins. When we sin, the Law testifies against us, and we come under its authority to condemn. If it weren’t for the written Law, many people would not even know that they were “imprisoned” by it because of their sin and would be unaware that they needed a savior. For those who become aware of their need, God has also made promises of redemption in the same document.

(23)  Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

Paul did not mean that faith came at a particular moment in time for all people everywhere. Faith did not come after Yeshua’s crucifixion or after Pentecost. If it did, then Abraham’s faith could not have been counted as righteousness (Galatians 3:6). Faith has come to individuals in all ages. Enoch, Moses, David, and Paul were all saved by faith and set free from the condemnation that came from their guilt under the Law. Those who have not yet found faith in Yeshua are still held captive to the Law because they remain under its authority.

(24)  So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

The Greek word paidagogos is translated as guardian, schoolmaster, or tutor, but because the paidagogos does not exist in our culture, none of those translations are quite right. Young’s Literal Translation renders it as “child-conductor,” which is probably as accurate as one could hope for. According to David Stern (Jewish New Testament Commentary), the paidagogos functioned as a disciplinarian who ensured children arrived at their school safely and on time.

I think the King James Version is very instructive here.

(24)  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Notice that “to bring us” is in italics, which means that those words were not in the original Greek text. They were inserted by the translators to help the reader understand what they believed the passage to be saying. The added words don’t detract from the meaning in the KJV, but the English Standard Version, from which I have been quoting throughout this series, is misleading in this case, especially because it doesn’t include the italics. The ESV translators (as well as the International Standard translators) took a huge liberty with this verse, contrary to almost every translation before them. The Rheims New Testament, Bishops Bible, and Geneva Bible (all 16th century) agree with the KJV. So does the American Standard, Darby, and Young’s translations (all 19th-20th century).

The Law was not a paidagogos until Christ, but unto Christ. The difference is very important. The Law leads us to the Messiah by illustration of the principles that require a savior, by demonstrating our inability to save ourselves, and by prophesying of his coming. It continues as a “schoolmaster unto Christ” today for everyone who doesn’t yet know him.

(25)  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,  (26)  for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Now that the Law has demonstrated our need for salvation and shown us the way to obtain it, we no longer need it for that purpose. That is not to say that the Law is not needed for other purposes. Having come to faith, we are not to go on sinning, and as Paul explained to the Galatians and the Romans, one of the purposes of the Law is to highlight our sin. If it didn’t define sin, as Peter and Paul wrote, it could neither convict us of our sin nor inform of our need for a savior, and there is no reason to suppose that something that was a sin before faith, somehow becomes not sin after faith. Having “put on Christ” (v27), we are not allowed to rely on his covering to hide continuous sin, but are required to continue striving for perfection. The great benefit of faith in this regard is that it removes any worry of failure. We obey out of love for our savior, but we don’t need to be terrified of instant condemnation if we fail in any small point because we know he will forgive us when we sin.

I am going to skip a few verses to make a couple of final points.

Galatians 4:8-9  Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.  (9)  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

What are these “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world” to which the Galatians were once enslaved? We can’t know the specifics of what they were, but we can know for an absolute certainty that they were not God’s Laws as Daniel implied in his comment. The Galatians were very much enslaved to the Law, but only because they were sinners, not because they were trapped in Pharisaical Judaism. The answer is only a single sentence away, and I am astonished that any Christian who has actually read Galatians can think Paul was referring to Torah! Those “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world” were false gods and religions, not God’s Law! Verse seven says, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.”

Indeed, Daniel, it doesn’t get any clearer than that.

The Galatians were pagans, not Jews. How could they return to a Judaism that they had never known? Paul meant that by attempting to earn their salvation by works, they were returning to the same principles that had informed their former idolatry. When they were idol worshipers they appeased their gods by speaking the right incantations and offering the right sacrifices on the right days. That never was any salvation in such things whether they originated in pagan idolatry or in God’s perfect Law. You cannot be saved through the rigorous observance of days, months, seasons, and years no matter what days or seasons they are.

You can, however, learn a great deal about who God is and how he relates to you by keeping his commands, including his holy days.

Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

Build yourself a sukka. Set up a tent. Study and live. Learn something worthwhile.

Hag sameach!

part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12

Vox’s original article: Christians and the Law.

Posted in Keeping Torah, Theology, Torah, Vox Day vs Torah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Christians and the Law: Answering the Objections, part 10

Messianic Symbolism in the Passover Seder

The Jews have been celebrating Passover for thousands of years and practicing traditions of which they only know half the meaning. Christians have been celebrating a mixture of Passover and pagan holidays during that time, but they too know some of the meaning of the Jewish traditions. Most of them just don’t know that they know. Here is just some of the rich meaning behind the traditions and commands of the Passover seder:

The Karpas

We eat parsley or celery greens dipped in salt water to remember the hyssop with which our ancestors painted the lamb’s blood on their doorposts and with which Yeshua was given vinegar on the cross. We dip the greens in salt water to remind us of the tears of bondage in Egypt and sin, as well as the tears of joy at our redemption.

The Matzah

We eat unleavened bread to remember how our ancestors had to leave Egypt in such a hurry that they had not time to allow their bread to rise, and it baked in the sun right on top of their packs.

The matzah is striped and pierced (think of a typical Saltine) to represent the wounds of our Messiah who was pierced for our transgressions and striped for our healing.

In the center of the Passover table, we place three pieces of matzah wrapped in white linen. Each piece is in a separate fold or compartment of the cloth and represents one part of the Trinity.

The Yachatz

At the start of the seder, we break the middle matzah in half, wrap it in a separate cloth and hide it. This is called the afikomen and reminds us of how the Messiah’s body was broken for us, wrapped in a linen burial shroud and buried in the tomb for three days. It also reminds us that he was taken away and hidden from our view after his resurrection.

At the end of the seder, the children all go to find the afikomen. This tells us that only those who are willing to look for the Messiah with the heart of a child will find him. The child who returns with the matzah may bargain with the leader for a prize. When the Messiah returns to rule his kingdom, he will not be coming for a slovenly bride, but one who is pure, who has worked out her salvation with earnestness. He will accept our gifts of gold and silver but destroy our chaff.

The Maror

We eat horseradish or some other bitter herb to remind us of our ancestors’ bitter suffering in Egypt. Although their suffering was great, so was their redemption and reward. We suffer too, but Yeshua said to rejoice when we are persecuted for righteousness sake. Our reward in heaven will be more than just compensation.

The Charoset

We eat a paste made of apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine to remind us of the mortar used to lay bricks in Egypt. It tastes much better than the mud it resembles, however, which is appropriate, because time spent in hard labor as a community binds us together and strengthens us as families and a nation.

The Lamb

Since there is no Temple in Jerusalem, we cannot have an actual Passover lamb. Many families will include a roasted lamb bone on the seder plate to symbolize the lamb whose blood marked the doorposts of the faithful in Egypt. The bone is roasted to remind us that the Passover lamb is to be roasted over a fire and eaten in whole. Whatever is leftover must be burned in a fire. The lamb also represents the Lamb of God who was slain to take away the sins of the whole world.

Although many people only eat chicken or some other bird on Passover so as to avoid even the appearance of having sacrificed somewhere besides the Temple, there is no commandment to that effect. Since this Passover can only ever be a rehearsal, no blood sacrifices are involved.

The Wine

We drink four cups of wine at Passover, though they need not be four full cups and can even be diluted or filled with simple grape juice instead of wine. The cups represent four promises that God made to Israel regarding slavery:

Exodus 6:6-7 Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and (1) I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and (2) I will rid you out of their bondage, and (3) I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And (4) I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

We drink the first cup immediately after the opening blessing to remind us that God saves us from our sins, while we were yet sinners. He took our ancestors out of Egypt before he gave them his laws or told them to do anything at all except to trust in him. Likewise, we do not need to complete our transformation to be saved, but only to commit ourselves to the process.

We drink the second cup after telling the story of the Exodus and explaining the significance of the various items on the seder plate, but before eating the main meal. This represents our sanctification through obedience to God’s law after our salvation from sin. God gave his Torah to Israel after saving them from Egypt and before allowing them to enter the Land. Only after we rid ourselves of bondage to sin can we partake in the full richness of God’s promises.

We drink the third cup, the cup of redemption, after the meal. This is the cup that Yeshua held when he said, This is my blood of the new covenant. Since sin entered the world through one son of God, so sin can only be taken away through another. As the perfectly sinless only begotten Son of God, the Messiah is the only person whose blood can redeem all of mankind from sin. Although we work hard to rid our lives of sin, we could never remove it through our own efforts. True redemption can only be a gift of God.

We drink the fourth cup to symbolize our union with God as his people. Yeshua did not drink the fourth cup because his mission was not yet complete. Although his blood was given as an earnest of that time, the New Covenant has not fully come. Only when he returns to rule his Kingdom will he drink the fourth cup and usher in the age of the New Covenant, writing his Torah on our hearts so that we will no longer have to teach or be taught about God. We will know him and his ways in our very flesh.

Posted in Keeping Torah, Passover, Theology, Torah | 6 Comments