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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Law-Abiding Guy

How many times have I heard that we dirty, rotten Christians pick and choose what parts of the Bible we will obey or not? If I've heard it once, I've heard it ... much more than once. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard it, I'd have more than a dollar. (Any other silly cliches I can use here? No. I think I'm done.) The thing is, I don't think it's true. At least, not in my case.

The accusation is that we Christians are ignoring (selectively) the Old Testament Law. Why do they say that? Well, I'm not cutting my hair the right way, avoiding shrimp, or making sure to buy only cotton shirts. See? So why not allow another break in the law ... say, in the case of homosexual behavior? Ah, yes ... now we get to the real "why". But I don't think I'm in this category of cherry-picking which laws I'll follow and which I won't.

You see, the Old Testament has its Laws. They are divided, essentially, into three categories. There are the sacrificial (sometimes called ceremonial) laws about the tabernacle/temple and sacrifices and all that. There are cultural laws -- the civil laws of the State of Israel, so to speak. And there are the moral laws, those things which God says are right or wrong in terms of ethics. So, where do I stand on these? Here's where I stand. "Truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." (Matt 5:18) So, how does that work?

Sacrificial Laws

These laws were about dealing with sin. How is Man's sin made right with God? In the Old Testament they were handled in a sacrificial system that pointed to a future system. That future system is Christ. He is the "Lamb of God" (John 1:29). He is the scapegoat (Lev 16:5-10). He is the Ultimate Sacrifice that takes away sin. He is the fulfillment and embodiment of the Sacrificial Laws. I still aim to abide by the principles of the Sacricial Laws.

Cultural Laws

These laws were aimed at cultural Israel to make them be consciously separated from the rest of the world, to "come out from among them and be separate" (2 Cor 6:17). They weren't a moral code, but a separation code. They included food to eat, clothing to wear, and health codes. Their aim was to make God's people distinct from the world. Now, obviously, Israel was a theocracy. As such, there is no "church as government" condition for us. Their civil laws included civil sanctions and we are no longer in place for non-Israel. So, for Christians, we are identified with Christ. We are set apart by being "in Christ" (Rom 8:1) and have "Christ in you" (Col 1:27). We are separated from the rest of the world by our identity with Him. I still aim to abide by the principles of the Cultural Laws.

Moral Laws

These laws covered ethics. What was right and wrong? They covered ethics in a comprehensive way. That is, they were true regardless of culture or times. These are most obvious because they are repeated in both Old and New Testaments. So we read prohibitions in both Old and New against adultery, homosexual activity (all sorts of sexual immorality), murder, theft, and so on, and these would be the Moral Law that transcends cultural Israel. I still aim to abide by the principles of the Moral Laws.

The laws that bound Israel -- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself -- are the laws that still bind Christians. The means of forgiveness for Israel -- the sacrifice of God's Lamb (in preview for them) -- is still the means of forgiveness for Christians. That Israel needed to be distinct from the world is still true for Christians today. I still aim to abide by God's Laws which, according to Christ, in principle do not pass away.

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