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Friday, June 22, 2007

The Biblical Law - question and answer

Commenters often claim I ignore their questions. I did answer this one, but it has come up again so I want to put it in the form of a post and make it abundantly clear: The commenter is in black, I am in blue and the Bible is in red.

My question was:"Could you give us a rundown on which laws no longer apply, and which do, because of Jesus getting himself killed? You say the "ceremonial" stuff is out, but there's a lot of "stoning" for what appears to be non-ceremonial action/thought."Unless you are saying all the laws are out since Jesus got nailed, I'm still waiting for the answer. And waiting, and waiting, and.....

The Law as given by God to Moses, both on the stone tablets and by further inspiration, is specified in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The Law was part of a theocracy in which God Himself was the head and was represented by Moses and the Priesthood. Whereas the Law was given to the Jews, they were also given a choice: would they accept the Law and the God of the Law as their authority? They agreed to this.

Exodus 24:3 & 4 - When Moses went and told the people all the LORD's words and laws, they responded with one voice, "Everything the LORD has said we will do." Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.

Thus we have what is known as a covenant arrangement, along the lines of a contract in today's terms. (I find no codicil in here about needing a temple to perform sacrifices, as there was not yet a temple, so my question to Jews today remains unanswered.) The covenant was between God and man. The people of Israel stood in for mankind as a whole, because they were the last remnant of people on earth who still worshipped to any extent the Creator God. By the way, even though the Law was given to the Jews, a non-Jew could come in to the congregation by belief and action and be one of God's people as well, just as Rahab did for one example.

Of course, people being people the Jews as a whole didn't do a very good job of keeping the Law and would, as a nation, stray. In fact, much of the Old Testament is an account of a nation that strayed from God, and came back, and strayed, and came back and so on.

The Law was for a people but also for individual people. No matter what the state of the people of Israel, individuals could be obedient or not as they would. Thus, even when the nation itself was in rebellion to God, there would be an Isaiah or a Jeremiah or an Elijah calling them back to God.

But no one man could keep the law perfectly and God knew this. He inspired Paul to write on this subject rather clearly in discussing Abraham, one of the fathers of the faith and a Patriarch in the line of the Jews. Well, The Patriarch in fact.

Romans 4: 1-3 - What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

Even Abraham was unable to do nothing but good. His "works" could not save him. The Jews could do their best to keep the Law, but they would fail and be required to give sacrifices and repent. In doing this, they were not actually atoning for their sins but they were believing and obeying their God. Thus, righteousness was 'credited' to them. The sacrifices were 'types' representing the One True Sacrifice to come, Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10: 1-7 - The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.' "

Jesus came as a fulfillment of the Law, the answer to the question of sin and redemption and presented himself to the Jewish people as their Messiah. But the ruling scribes and pharisees of that time did not want to lose their position and power and rejected the idea of Christ. They wanted a Messiah who would set up an earthly kingdom, deposing the Romans and thus taking over the world (and putting those same scribes and pharisees in places of even greater authority). They wanted a Messiah who gave them earthly things. But Jesus came to do much more than that and many Jews heard and became followers of Christ. Frankly, you could just as easily call Christian believers "Jews" and require those calling themselves Jews now to simply identify themselves as Hebrews. Because at the time of Christ there was a split between Jews who accepted the Christ and those who rejected Him.

Romans 2:29 - No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

By that verse, I am a Jew and glad of it! In any event, when Christ died on the cross the atonement was begun and once He rose again and ascended to Heaven it was completed. Several things took place:

1) The temple veil was ripped in half from the top down, God's way of saying that He would no longer have a presence in the Temple and that the Holy of Holies was no longer there...and thus invalidating further sacrifices.

2) The theocracy of a people ruled by God, which had become a practical mockery by this time, was over. God had presented a new covenant between Himself and mankind, through Jesus, and once again this covenant was by choice.

3) Those who rejected (and reject) Christ are therefore still accountable to the Old Covenant. So when I say the ceremonial laws passed away, I am referring to the sacrifices and offerings which prefigured Christ. Christ has come and there is no longer a need to prefigure Him, obviously. When I say the Law was nailed to the cross I also mean that, for Christians, we are now to be led by the Spirit of God within us and guided by the principles of the Bible. The Law was fulfilled in Christ and we who have accepted Christ as Savior will not be judged by the Law. But rejectors of Christ are technically still under the Law so for you who will not accept Christ, all of it still applies to you and by that Law you will be judged by the Creator God after your life in this form is over.

4) Within the generation living when Christ was crucified (as he predicted specifically) the Temple was torn down stone-by-stone and the (now useless) sacrifices were ended completely.

5) The question of sin was now answered in Christ, who fulfilled the Law completely, paid the penalty for those who could not fulfill that same law, and then rose from the dead as the first of many who would live eternally with Him by accepting His sacrifice and receiving his Spirit.

II Corinthians 3:6 - He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Oh, as for the Jews finding a nailed messiah laughable, well, the non acceptance of your nailed messiah speaks for itself. Interpret their scriptures as you will, they read them quite differently.

Psalms 22:16 - Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.

Yep, nothing clear about that...in fact even though it is in poetic language (Psalms being songs to be sung rather than prose to be simply read), Psalms 22 is quite specific at times about the crucified Christ, albeit being written several centuries earlier. For instance:

Psalms 22: 7 & 8 - All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
"He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."


Now compare to the testimony of the actual event in approximately AD 33:

Mark 15:29-32 - And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.

or

Matthew 27:41-43 - Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

Which makes ya wonder. Shouldn't God make these things a little clearer? After all we're talking eternal damnation here!

It is crystal clear. It is abundantly clear. Jesus spent three years proclaiming it, and his disciples and followers have continued to pass on the message ever since. It is proclaimed clearly and continuously in the Bible. Here are a few of the numerous passages that directly speak on this subject.

John 14:6 - Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 3:16-18 - "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

Matthew 1:21 - She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

Luke 19:10 - For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

Mark 16: 15 & 16 - He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 4:10-12 - Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is " 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Romans 5:1-11 - Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

I Timothy 1:3-5 - This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

No secrets here - Jesus' mission was predicted in the Old Testament, He proclaimed it while He lived, He fulfilled it in dying and resurrecting, his disciples have published it continually thereafter. There is no confusion at all, what there is, however, is choice.

Choose to accept Christ, or choose to reject Him. No mystery, no secret, and it is on you to decide.



22 comments:

Anonymous said...

1. Did I miss something here, or are you saying that the only absolute law is that one must accept Christ? That apart from that there is no moral or legal guidance for a Christian, since the old laws (Deuteronomy etc.) no longer apply?

If that is not the case, then which Law is a Christian subject to?

2. Are you advocating that non-believers follow the Law as presented in Deuteronomy etc.? That we should stone obnoxious teenagers at the city gates etc.?

-- creeper

Anonymous said...

And unless I'm mistaken, this question went unanswered: "Could you give us a rundown on which laws no longer apply, and which do, because of Jesus getting himself killed? You say the "ceremonial" stuff is out, but there's a lot of "stoning" for what appears to be non-ceremonial action/thought."

-- creeper

radar said...

As I said, the theocracy is no longer in place. I thought that would settle the question but I will be more specific. Any portion of the Law that included the penalty phase (stoning, for instance) has been "nailed to the cross" so to speak because the theocracy itself was dissolved. THe Law was, in part, the judicial code for a nation and that nation ceased to exist.

The sins that would have been eligible for punishment are still sins. The definition of sin didn't change at all.

We are all citizens of some form of government and it is the laws of the USA, in my case, that now take precedence as my judicial code to be followed.

The admonitions in the Bible about what is good and what is evil is the moral code that I (and Christians in general) should follow.

I cannot imagine that this doesn't completely answer the question.

Anonymous said...

"Any portion of the Law that included the penalty phase (stoning, for instance) has been "nailed to the cross" so to speak because the theocracy itself was dissolved. THe Law was, in part, the judicial code for a nation and that nation ceased to exist.

The sins that would have been eligible for punishment are still sins. The definition of sin didn't change at all."


So which are the sins that would have been eligible for punishment that are not a portion of the Law that included the penalty phase?

Are there any parts of Deuteronomy that still apply, and if so, why?

"We are all citizens of some form of government and it is the laws of the USA, in my case, that now take precedence as my judicial code to be followed."

Fair enough, but that is a far cry from the superiority of absolute law that you were boasting about earlier - it is man-made and subject to change according to man's will, according to present-day moral understanding. It is something you share with people of other religions as well as atheists.

-- creeper

Anonymous said...

"As I said, the theocracy is no longer in place. I thought that would settle the question but I will be more specific."

How could it possibly answer the question, as it only subtracts pretty much all the specific laws mentioned in the Bible? So, again, which are (not which aren't) the absolute laws?

(My, who'da thunk this so-called "absolute morality" would turn out to be so awfully wishy-washy...)

-- creeper

radar said...

I cannot see how this is hard to understand-

Ceremonial aspects of the Law (the makeup of a priest's outfit, setting up the tabernacle, offerings, sabbaths, sacrifices, etc) were for a theocracy that existed before Christ's atonement. They were aspects of an old covenant, which has been replaced.

Judicial codes of punishment were also part of the theocracy, which has been replaced.

Moral codes and statements as to what is right and wrong have remained completely unchanged.

This is very simple to understand unless you are determined not to understand just so you can say something like "(My, who'da thunk this so-called "absolute morality" would turn out to be so awfully wishy-washy...)"

Sorry, but incest and murder and homosexual acts and theft and adultery and in fact all aspects of Biblical morality as presented to us in the Pentateuch are still very much in force. Sin is still sin exactly as it was. The pretense of ignorance doesn't fool anyone.

joe said...

Radar, I assure you my ignorance on this subject is not an act, and I'm merely trying to get some straight answers. And the straight meaning of what you're saying is, well, sometimes surprising to me.

Like this, for example:

"Sorry, but incest and murder and homosexual acts and theft and adultery and in fact all aspects of Biblical morality as presented to us in the Pentateuch are still very much in force."

So this does mean that obnoxious teenagers should be stoned at the city gates, that adulterers should be stoned, that a man is obligated to marry his dead brother's wife, that male prisoners of war are all to be put to death, that men with injured genitals are not allowed into God's congregation, that a newly married man may not join the military service for one year, etc.?

Are these the absolute laws you are talking about? And they must absolutely be adhered to?

-- creeper

radar said...

"Radar, I assure you my ignorance on this subject is not an act, and I'm merely trying to get some straight answers. And the straight meaning of what you're saying is, well, sometimes surprising to me.

Like this, for example:

"Sorry, but incest and murder and homosexual acts and theft and adultery and in fact all aspects of Biblical morality as presented to us in the Pentateuch are still very much in force."

So this does mean that obnoxious teenagers should be stoned at the city gates, that adulterers should be stoned, that a man is obligated to marry his dead brother's wife, that male prisoners of war are all to be put to death, that men with injured genitals are not allowed into God's congregation, that a newly married man may not join the military service for one year, etc.?"

Again, I have been quite specific. The punishment portion of these laws were part of the theocracy, which was the Nation of Israel. That nation is gone. Therefore, the sins are still sins but the stoning part is not any longer involved.

Are these the absolute laws you are talking about? And they must absolutely be adhered to?

If you do something prohibited by the Law, such as commit a homosexual act or curse your mother or have sex with your sister or steal your neighbor's dog or murder someone, it is still a sin and that sin will be judged by God. That hasn't changed and won't change.

I am guessing that your problem is understanding the difference between a legal code and a penal code. The legal code remains as it was, the penalty phase was specific to the Nation of Israel and is no longer in force.

Anonymous said...

"The punishment portion of these laws were part of the theocracy, which was the Nation of Israel. That nation is gone. Therefore, the sins are still sins but the stoning part is not any longer involved."

Well, weren't the sins part of the theocracy as well? Where does it say "keep this part, but get rid of that part"?

"I am guessing that your problem is understanding the difference between a legal code and a penal code. The legal code remains as it was, the penalty phase was specific to the Nation of Israel and is no longer in force."

This distinction between the legal code and the penal code, and one being upheld and the other dropped, that all came from the curtain in the temple being ripped and Jesus (prior to that) saying that the law has been fulfilled in him?

Where was it spelled out that the punishment part of the deal was suddenly optional, but that the rest still applied?

As cranky pointed out earlier, for something on which eternal damnation is based, this isn't all that clear or even absolute. Could you give us a rundown of the laws of Deuteronomy and how we're intended to live by them today?

And where it was made clear how the interpretation was intended to be changed once Jesus showed up on the scene?

-- creeper

cranky old fart said...

"Moral codes and statements as to what is right and wrong have remained completely unchanged."

radar, I do see how you are dancing, but it's very out of step with the tune.

These "sins" like talking back, were worthy of capital punishment before Jesus. Jesus gets nailed, and now they're just worthy of a finger wag? Say what?

Wouldn't such a major change in the rules be worthy of a clearer statement? I mean, say Bob just stoned his son to death the week before Jesus' nailing, which was a pretty disturbing incident for Bob and the whole family (Bob's son's brutal death, not the Jesus thing, cause he didn't really know anything about Jesus).

Now Bob learns a week later that, sorry, that law is right out, and, gee, we're sorry, but you really didn't need to bash out your son's brains for sassing you. Last week god required the brutal murder, this week, well, maybe a time out will do.

Bob might ask, who is this Jesus guy and why didn't he say something sooner?

We might also ask, why didn't this Jesus guy even bother to address this rather critical (pun intended)issue at all? Didn't it warrant at least one clear declarative sentence?

Anonymous said...

Given Radar's predilection for making stuff up as it suits his argument (and in an effort to eat his cake and have it too), I'm a little wary of his progression here of first claiming that only the "ceremonial" stuff was out and when that didn't seem feasible anymore (as it left it as an "absolute" law today that obnoxious teenagers should be stoned to death at the city gate), he peeled off the "penal" part as well.

It comes across as opportunistic on Radar's part. Looking forward to any actual arguments re. justifying this, however. Apart from that one would have to conclude that these laws are as man-made as any other, which wouldn't surprise me. (And which isn't a bad thing.)

-- creeper

radar said...

Creeper, I have kept up this discussion with you, suspecting that no matter what I say you will refuse to acknowledge the truth. Now it appears that I was right.

I presented this to you and a guarantee you that the information is standard stuff to Bible students and I did so logically. I replied to your questions specifically just to make sure it was all clear. If you now want to retreat and claim that I am making it all up, well more power to ya'.

Cranky, Jesus was beaten and reviled and crucified as He worked to bring this about, so I would say that, whereas you have some trouble understanding it all, the ruling Pharisees and Sadducees understood exactly what Jesus was saying....and they didn't like it. They didn't want the theocracy to end, they didn't want the sacrifices (which also enriched them personally) to end and they certainly didn't want to lose their power and position. They understood quite well and there are several books of the Bible written within 50 years of the Crucifixion that explain this all quite thoroughly. You could always read the Bible if you like...

Anonymous said...

"I replied to your questions specifically just to make sure it was all clear. If you now want to retreat and claim that I am making it all up, well more power to ya'."

1. I'm not claiming that you made this stuff up, only that you have shown a tendency to do so in the past, and that I suspect it may be the case here. Pointing that out is not a retreat.

2. Could you point out at which point between the question "Could you give us a rundown on which laws no longer apply, and which do, because of Jesus getting himself killed?" and your latest comment here you specifically replied to that question?

Or these: "Where was it spelled out that the punishment part of the deal was suddenly optional, but that the rest still applied?"

"And where it was made clear how the interpretation was intended to be changed once Jesus showed up on the scene?"


-- creeper

cranky old fart said...

"...there are several books of the Bible written within 50 years of the Crucifixion that explain this all quite thoroughly."

Then that should make it rather easy to answer my questions.

Just point me to Jesus' words where he says that the old abominations worthy of capital punishment, the rules of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are still the rules, but we are just no longer are going to enforce any of them.

radar said...

Cranky - Much of this teaching was done by Paul and Peter in explaining what Jesus had accomplished, nevertheless:

Luke 24:44 - "He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

Matthew 5:17 & 18 - "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. I 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."

Jesus came to fulfill the law and it would be unchanged "until everything is accomplished." He had to be crucified, take on the sins of mankind, die, rise again, present Himself to the Father and then everything was accomplished. At that point then various "jots and tittles" would then pass away.

Matthew 22:36-40 - "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Jesus was preparing His followers for a new attitude about their obligation to God with words such as these.

Luke 11:52 - "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."

Jesus spent time pointing out the hypocrisy of those who tried to be justified by the Law. The Law was to be a judicial code and a ceremonial code and a means by which man could be in agreement with God humbly, rather than pridefully. By this time, the Priests had written thousands of words of corollary "law" by which they attempted to live, thereby thinking themselves justified by works rather than by faith.

Jesus came to preach the Law to those under the Law, so they could clearly see that they couldn't be justified by that Law, that they needed a Savior. They needed a relationship with God rather than a mere religion.

John 13:31-35 - "When he was gone, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

"My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Jesus, shortly before being sacrificed, told the disciples that they were receiving a new commandment. That this meant the dissolution of the previous penal and ceremonial codes is discussed in books like Hebrews and Romans, etc. The Epistles, as they are known, go to great length to explain this to the early Christians, virtually all of whom were Jews.

The first Christians understood what Jesus had accomplished and all the ceremonies and penalties of the Law were abolished.

cranky old fart said...

So the things that were abominations remain such, but the penalties are out because Jesus paid the price.

Do I have that right?

radar said...

"So the things that were abominations remain such, but the penalties are out because Jesus paid the price.

Do I have that right?"

Well, keep in mind that the specific penalties were for a nation that is no longer in existence. In the eyes of God that theocracy was ended when Christ died.

Jesus paid the price so that the penalties are out on the day a man is judged by God. Those who do not trust Christ will face penalties at that time of a more eternal nature.

Meanwhile, any of these sins that a law of a nation such as the USA has entered into the judicial code can be penalized by man. So, as a Christian Jesus may have paid the price for me should I rob a bank, but the US government will not be so forgiving...

cranky old fart said...

"Jesus paid the price so that the penalties are out on the day a man is judged by God. Those who do not trust Christ will face penalties at that time of a more eternal nature."

Yes, but the abominations of the OT remains such. Right?

radar said...

Yes, homosexual acts and adultery and theft and lying and so on are still abominable acts, or shall we say sins. No change in what God thinks is right and wrong.

Anonymous said...

"No change in what God thinks is right and wrong."

Except for chopping off hands, stoning to death, mass murder and the like. Looks like he changed his mind about those. It's an interesting subject, especially when you take divine command theory into account. One moment it's moral, even required to stone your kid to death, and the next it's a no-no. How fickle morality can be when you leave God in charge.

-- creeper

radar said...

"Except for chopping off hands, stoning to death, mass murder and the like."

creeper, that is absurd! You are making empty statements as if you never read a word I wrote. If you murder several people, or cut off their hands, or stone them to death you are sinning, then and now. If society has a penalty for a crime, like the death penalty, it is not murder. I know you know better!

If you studied the culture, you would find that stoning teenagers was not done. It was in the law that it could be done, but the parent would be the one to bring the charge and most parents would try other means first. The law is sometimes used as a deterrent and in that particular instance that was primarily the case. Can you give me a few examples of it actually being done?

There was no change in what is considered sin, period. You are simply wrong.

Anonymous said...

"You are making empty statements as if you never read a word I wrote."

I wasn't referring to your words, I was referring to Deuteronomy. It clearly advocates all these things, so how could they be considered sins?

"If society has a penalty for a crime, like the death penalty, it is not murder."

You mean murder as in my reference to mass murder? Mass murder in particular is advocated not even as a punishment for a crime, but as a war tactic - prisoners of war were supposed to be killed en masse according to these "absolute" laws. Where exactly was that one overturned?