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For You Are Not Under Law

November 12, 2006

mosestablets.jpg

You are not here.

More coming tomorrow.  Get your questions in now before I start pontificating irrelevantly.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2006 10:45 pm

    Woah! Cool picture!

    (I know I am supposed to say something like Whew! Amen! That’s not me! But it really is a cool picture.)

    Pontificate away!

  2. November 13, 2006 1:43 am

    So yeah, I’ve been thinking about your message this morning, and I think I would have to disagree with you. I probably have nowhere near the exegetical skill you have, so we’ll see how I turn out in this disagreement =).

    Well first, I feel like that picture makes me feel like a jerk for believing the Old Testament law is still in effect =P. I guess to qualify what I’m about to say, I’m not arguing for my position because I’m a legalist wanting to “arm” myself; I simply want to stay faithful to Scripture. So here are some thoughts:

    Matthew 5:17-20 presents a major problem to me concerning your view. I think you would argue that when Christ says he came to “fulfill them [the Law and the Prophets],” he meant that he came to replace them with his own law. However, I find it troublesome that he says, “until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” I think that Jesus’ emphasis here is that it is impossible for the Law to disappear, rather than that the Law was going to end (be “accomplished”) with him, since immediately afterwards, Jesus says, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teachers others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…”

    I think Jesus fulfilled the law in three ways: 1) he corrected the Pharisees’ distorted interpretation of Old Testament law, 2) he fulfilled the requirements of the law in his life which would become the basis for the elects’ justification, and 3) he fulfilled the prophesies concerning him in the OT. To elaborate upon point #1, I think that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 was not meant to add anything new to the OT law, but rather to simply teach what the OT law really taught in contrast to what the Pharisees claimed it taught. For example, Jesus stating that a person who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment was not new to the law, but had already been taught by verses like Genesis 4:5-7 and Leviticus 19:17-18. And regarding adultery, the tenth commandment states “you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17). The argument regarding divorce is slightly more sophisticated, so I won’t put it here, although I can provide it if you want. So in short, Jesus never intended to create a new era of law, but rather simply to clarify the old one against false teachings.

    Regarding “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10), if we look at the verses immediately before, we see that Paul says that “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…” (Romans 13:9). I don’t think that “summed up in” means “replaced by”; although “love” might be a summary of the law, its content still consists of the law. Similarly, when Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34), I don’t think he means it as a replacement of the OT law, but rather merely as a summary of it, as Paul clarifies. Also, isn’t the OT the source of the commandments to love God and love your neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18)?

    Furthermore, I think the Bible is pretty clear about distinguishing between moral and ceremonial laws. Ephesians 2:15 tells us that Jesus abolished in his flesh “the Law of commandments contained in ordinances” (NASB), and looking at the context, we see that Paul is clearly referring to the ceremonial laws meant to separate the Jews from the Gentiles. Hebrews 9:9-10 says, “According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.” Colossians 2:16-17 says, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” I think the New Testament clearly says that Jesus came to abolish the ceremonial laws of the Jews, but that it never says he came to abolish the moral laws. For example, in Romans 1 Paul still condemns homosexuality.

    I think the New Testament teaches that God did not abolish the OT law, but rather gives us the ability to obey it (Hebrews 10:16, Romans 3:31). This also explains the “fruit of the Spirit” passage in Galatians, since through the Spirit, we can obey God’s law and produce the fruit.

    I don’t think this teaching is legalistic. I think God desires for us to obey the law in order to separate believers from unbelievers, to contrast our good deeds done through the Spirit with the evil deeds of unbelievers who suppress the truth and fail to give God glory in their everyday living. I just find it unconvincing that Jesus came to set up a new order of law.

    So… that’s all I got, for now. And I admit, these ideas aren’t really my own, although the best I can say is I understand them =). I got these ideas mostly from this book http://www.rmiweb.org/books/sermonmount.pdf. This is the author (Vincent Cheung) that has most influenced my thinking, but he’s not very well known, and I’m pretty sure most people don’t like him too much. However, I find him quite convincing and dedicated to faithfully teaching Scripture. He comes off as arrogant to many, although he defends his tone and style with biblical arguments. If you disagree with some things he writes, I’d love if you would let me know. I don’t want to blindly follow anyone into unbiblical teachings =).

  3. Reepicheep permalink
    November 13, 2006 8:32 am

    I would like some “pontification” on Theonomy vs. Anti-nomianism. This is definitely going to be a lively week here in the blogosphere.

  4. November 13, 2006 9:31 am

    Ellie,

    The picture is actually of some minor import according to my friends who are into art history. Here’s some info

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Dor%C3%A9

  5. November 13, 2006 10:13 am

    Mike,

    I don’t think your view is legalistic. I haven’t heard of Vincent Cheung so I can’t comment on that yet.

    To be sure, Matthew 5:17-20 is the most problematic passage for my view. But, then again, it’s problematic for everyone. We all have to add qualifications to what it is saying, for it doesn’t even allow any room for the abrogation of the ceremonial law. You have to read into the text the moral/ceremonial distinction to make sense of it, I have to find another solution.

    Here’s what Douglas Moo says about it in “Five Views on Law and Gospel” ed. Gundry

    “[Jesus] is claiming that his teaching brings the eschatological fullness of God’s will to which the Mosaic Law looked forward. Jesus “fulfills” the law not by explaining it or by extending it, but by proclaiming the standards of kingdom righteousness that were anticipated in the law…

    Others argue that v. 19 refers to the commandments that Jesus is teaching (vv. 21ff) rather than to the commandments of the law (v. 18). But this is not the most obvious interpretation. Probably, then, we should understand v. 18 to be an endorsement of the continuing ‘usefulness’ or authority of the law. Jesus is no Marcionite; and even if his followers are no longer bound by the commandments of the law, they are still to read and profit from it. In v. 19, then, the continuing practice of the commandments of the law must be viewed in light of their fulfillment by Jesus. It is the law as fulfilled by Jesus that must be done, not the law in its original form.”

    The reason why I have hope that I am not the least in the kingdom of heaven is that I do not believe I am relaxing one of the least of Moses commandments. I still affirm their authority as a witness to God’s work in history and as a prophetic witness pointing ahead to Christ. And the moral standards of the law of Christ are actually higher and deeper than the moral standards of the law of Moses.

  6. November 13, 2006 10:14 am

    Reepicheep,

    That’s a good idea, though it may be a few days before I get to theonomy.

  7. November 13, 2006 11:57 am

    question: Is Sabbath observance considered moral or ceremonial law in Cheung’s view?

    It seems that the Sabbath is a law that biblically extends beyond these distinctions and so indicates that the distinctions are not from Scripture. Consider that the Sabbath is classified with ceremonial observances above in the citing of Col. 2, and yet the Sabbath is in the decalogue – the morally classified, ten commandments.

  8. Son of Matt permalink
    November 13, 2006 1:29 pm

    I recently listened to a few messages by D.A. Carson about Jesus being the fulfillment of the OT law. I can’t remember all of what he said, but believe he commented on Moo’s position (I think in the 2nd or 3rd message). Find them at http://www.euroleadershipresources.org/resource.php?ID=242&Tab=AudioDownload .

    One of the things that Carson brought up that applies somewhat here – and that I thought of yesterday while Mike taught… is that if we can’t use the standard moral, ceremonial, civil distinction to figure out what actually applies to us, we can look for what is most consistant throughout scripture. Mike mentions this some… For certain things, it seems clear that the command is the same (adultery, murder), and for some, it seems it has changed (sabbath, diet).

    As for the Law giving us a picture of God’s character, I think this is a good way to think about it, but is sometimes tricky. Since not all of the law applies today, we also have to give some thought to why God commanded it then and how his character was displayed then. For instance, it is more clear how making restitution after stealing someone’s cow reveals God’s character than how not nearing a dead body, or getting spit on by someone who is unclean does…

    ((BTW Isaiah543, I might like to know sometime (but probably not now), what your perspective on what unclean is in the OT law… is it sin or not?))

  9. November 21, 2006 10:31 pm

    markfrench,

    Cheung doesn’t address the Sabbath argument for the law, so I don’t know. I’ll just study more about the Sabbath and see what interpretation I come up with. And then I’ll test it against what other people say.

    Thanks for the reply, Mike. I’ll think about your points!

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