Sunday, May 24, 2009

Common Legalist Arguments - Part IV

In my last post in this series, Common Legalist Arguments - Part III, I went over the idea that in the New Covenant we are commanded by God to obey Old Covenant laws. We saw that the New Covenant is about a new law of love and faith, not an old series of 613 or so laws which the Bible calls "the ministry of death written and engraved on stones". We saw that the law itself was good, but man could not handle them. We saw that before it was "obey external laws because you must" and now it is "flow with Spirit in you because you're grateful".

This time, I would like to address what the Bible says about the old law being gone.

Argument #4
"Where does it say the law is done away with?"

The Bible never says the exact phrase "the law is done away with". But that isn't the real issue anyway. The real issue is where does it say the law was given to the Gentiles? The Old Covenant was with Israel only, and the Gentiles were never commanded to become Jews in order to become Christians (I'll get deeper to that in future posts - like this one: "Confusing the Covenants").
But to answer your question... the concept of "law" itself is not done away. There is a Royal Law of love and faith. Rather, Old Covenant law was done away. This was done by necessity.

First, let's start by looking at the nature of covenants themselves.

Once a covenant is established, it cannot simply be altered.
(GAL. 3: 15) Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.

Herbert Armstrong taught the Old Covenant law was not changed and could not be. Herbert Armstrong also taught the Old Covenant law was changed by Jesus - certain parts were removed and other parts "magnified". (I was told Herbert Armstrong changed the law.) So, we get to have it both ways.
Has anyone ever thought to ask how that can possibly be? Is God not a judge? Is He not quite familiar with principles of law? Does not His own Word say that no one may add to nor take away from the covenant He made with Israel?

(DEU. 12: 32) 32 See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.

In order for it to be altered it had to be ended.

(ROM. 10: 4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

"End" here can mean "limit" or "goal", but a termination or cessation is also a perfectly valid translation -- especially for those who believe the KJV is inerrant. So, that leaves us with three ways to view this: 1) Jesus is love and Godly love is the goal of the law, 2) Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, 3) Jesus put an end to the law for those who have faith.

Even while agreeing with the first two, many legalists say that third option is not possible. Let's investigate that. The Old Covenant law are the provisions of the Old Covenant. Jesus was a primary party to the Old Covenant. He died. Covenant over; law too. It's that simple.
Paul goes over this in Romans 7: 1-4.

(ROM. 7: 1-3) 1 Do you not know, brothers — for I am speaking to men who know the law — that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3 So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.

When a husband (which the Word was to Israel) dies, the wife (Israel) is released completely and totally from any contract or agreement. Thus is Paul's point here. He was not speaking about marriage but about the Old Covenant. When Christ died, the Old Covenant and all that it entailed was utterly nullified. This is an inescapable Bible fact! First, Jesus fulfilled the law, then He died which ended the law. It is gone in the letter. Thus is the nature of covenants. And not only that, each of us has also died with Christ, which is an additional point of release. Jesus died, we died. The Old Covenant is doubly nullified. Everyone dies when entering the New Covenant. There is no one left alive for the Old Covenant to hold on to.

(ROM. 7: 4) 4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.

If you did not die to the law, then you are bound by it and cannot belong to Christ nor Christ to you. Is to be estranged from Christ really what you want?
Paul's conclusion:

(ROM 7: 6) But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

And this is again approached from yet another angle by the anonymous author of Hebrews.

(HEB. 7: 11-12) 11 Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.

Change, as in complete change. Not a slight modification. As Melchizedek is not a slight modification of Levi, the New Covenant law is not a slight modification of the Old.

The Levitical priesthood and the laws they taught and enforced were incapable of bringing perfection (HEB. 7: 11, 18-19). Ergo, they were changed out for a new system that would. Christ's perfection that is, not our own (not in this flesh anyway).

It could not be simply changed out at a whim or else it would have been done differently, but it was changed out at the end of the Covenant, ie. at Jesus' death and resurrection. Jesus' death and resurrection changed the entire order of things. The Old Covenant was replaced in its entirety by a New Covenant (HEB. 7: 22; 8: 6-7, 13). The New Covenant is not a modification of the Old. The implications of the change in priesthood alone belay that notion. It is a complete and total replacement for it. As verse 18 says, it was "annulled". Abrogated. Dissolved. Terminated. In stark reality, Jesus Christ could not be our High Priest if the law were not nullified.

(HEB. 7: 13-14) 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood

And since that is the case, there must be a change in the law (v. 12).
The law being annulled and replaced, what takes its place? Anarchy? No.

(ROM. 3: 21) 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets
(ROM. 8: 15) For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

To say "the law is done away" is not to say "we may do whatever we wish". This is a false dilemma presented regularly by legalists. To present this idea is to ignore all the very many times the New Testament says such things as "we should serve in the newness of the Spirit." If you are following the Holy Spirit, are you doing whatever sinful thing you wish? No. So it's a false dilemma to saw it's Old Covenant law or it's anarchy.
Besides, anyone who says we need the Old Covenant law to bring us to righteousness has not paid close attention to their Bible. The following is a list of things that do not come by the law:
Justification (GAL. 2: 16)
Righteousness (GAL. 2: 21)
The Spirit (GAL. 3: 2)
Perfection (GAL. 3: 3; HEB. 7: 19)
Miracles (GAL. 3: 5)
Inheritance (GAL. 3: 18)
Life (GAL. 3: 21)
Grace (GAL. 5: 4)
The very things we are told we need the law to achieve are things that do not come from the law.

How can we present the Old Covenant law as the answer when clearly that contradicts God's own inspired words? A desire to be holy, living in a Godly manner, is noble. I applaud the motivation. But it must be tempered with all of the Biblical evidence, not just buzz phrases like "Big 10" or cleverly worded arguments. As a guideline, the Ten Commandments are fine, but as a binding law, God saw fit to replace them with a New and better covenant. How can we remain in the Old Covenant when the New has come in? Do you not know that the 10 Commandments ARE the Old Covenant!

(EXO. 34: 28) So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
(DEU. 4: 13) So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.
(DEU. 5: 1-21) … 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. 4 The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. 5 I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said… [lists the Ten Commandments].
(DEU. 9: 9) When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water.
(DEU. 9: 11) And it came to pass, at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.
(DEU. 9: 15) So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire; and the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands.

Legalists insist on the 10 Commandments. I used to insist on them. Why? I thought it was the right thing to do! I was taught that for years. I thought that the 10 Commandments were the pinnacle of God's desire for us - super especially the Sabbath, of course. In opposition to God's own words, I believed God's will would come from closely following the law (or rather, a grossly cherry-picked version of the law). I listened to men who proclaimed with authority that righteousness came from the 10 Commandments. (The law itself was righteous, unfortunately mankind is not.) I was not able to grasp grace. I could not conceive that God would give me what I thought I had to work really hard for. I was not taught the Biblical truth that if we have faith then we will receive the Holy Spirit, and if the Holy Spirit is in us the Spirit will teach us and lead us into all righteousness (JOHN 14: 26) - not the law. This is precisely why the New Testament is adamant that it is not our own righteousness from the law that God desires, but His righteousness (from the Spirit in us) that comes by faith.

(ROM. 1: 17) For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
(ROM. 3: 20-22) 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe...
(ROM. 4: 5) However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
(PHP. 3: 9) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith
(2 PET. 1: 1) Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours
(GAL. 3: 10-14) 10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Paul mentions Abraham. What of Abraham?

(ROM. 4: 13-14) 13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless

Loved by God, it isn't the law that is unrighteous, but mankind. If you set out to follow the old letter of the law, you are setting yourself up for either frustrated failure or false pride. The law functions to show us what our sin is. It cannot take away that sin. We cannot take away that sin through the law. What do you seek to accomplish by the law, then? To earn anything with God? Perhaps you think that if only you can do well enough first, then God will deliver you to His inheritance? Do you think that if you compare yourself to someone else, setting yourself up as more righteous than they, then God will realize how you deserve a reward? Do you not see clearly how that sets you and your own efforts up and takes the focus away from Christ and His efforts? God does not owe anyone anything! We do not inherit the Kingdom through our own effort. We do not keep it through our own effort. This is not about us, it is about Christ! Christ secured salvation for all who have faith in Him. Rather, Christ will accomplish what you seek through faith. Christ can bring you there. The catch with the law is that if you accomplish all the law commands but stumble in one point then you have failed in all. God does not want to see His children condemned. He doesn't want you condemned, only humbled. That is why He sent His only Son, so that all who believe (MAR 16: 16; ACTS 16: 31) will be saved. That's a promise! That Son, our Savior and High Priest, paid the price for our sin, ransoming us from death and making complete reconciliation between us and God our Father, one time only and for all time. And when He said, "it is finished," He went on to sit down at the right hand of the Father and rested from His work. It is finished. He gives us this rest.

Perhaps you have overlooked these very many verses I quote here directly from God's word. Perhaps you never saw them. Perhaps you have explained them away somehow. Please consider that all of these things are from God, the Old Testament as well as the New, and they cannot be so easily dismissed. Please consider that perhaps the reason why you have never looked at them in this way could be, just maybe, because your ministers are teaching you the beliefs of a human being - Herbert Armstrong or whomever - and they are themselves not interested in seeing things from any other perspective. I cannot speak for everyone who thinks of themselves as a teacher of the law, but I have met many who are so filled with pride that they think they can do no wrong (Ronald Weinland for example, or Harold Smith, or Bob Thiel), and many who will teach whatever is required by the one who signs their paychecks.
As Bereans Did on the other hand has asked you for nothing except that you pray and ask for God's truth to shine in your heart. We don't claim to have all the answers. What I personally have is this - I was once a legalist (breathing out condemnation and judgment towards others in my pride and fear), but Christ has shone me a more perfect way. The inexplicable joy that I feel compels me to share this with you. I pray you find that way!

(ROM. 10: 5-6, 8-11) 5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: ...
8 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

If you trust in Him to do all that He has promised, then being motivated by His Spirit go and set aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Not as an article of Old Covenant law, but as an article of faith in Christ!


What was argument #4? "Where does it say the law is done away with?"

Have you not seen today where it says that? Not just once, but over and over again.

In closing, deeply loved by God, consider this:

(HEB. 10: 38-39) 38 "Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back [to their own righteousness from the law and the condemnation that comes from failure to achieve it??], My soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

God bless you and prosper you and speed you into His New Covenant!

[Also see Part I, Part II, Part III, & Part V]


It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourselfit is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )

Acts 17:11



Luc said...

This is so unambiguously and clearly written.

The idea that the Ten Commandments are the old covenant (Deut 4:13) is something few seem to understand. The pastors of churches everywhere and for many centuries have insisted on the big ten as being the eternal law of God, thus setting a trap for those who notice that the Sabbath is on the seventh day.

This scenario is why I posted “Granddad and the old testament law,” because this is what started my families fall into the mire of legalism. If only they read the above clear statement, and the other equally clear biblical statements presented by xHWA, a whole lot of misery might have been avoided.

Questeruk said...

I do have one fairly basic point on this, which seems to me to be incorrect.

You say:-

“Once a covenant is established, it cannot simply be altered.
(GAL. 3: 15) Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.”

Talking at a human level, it is true that if a covenant is made it cannot be altered by a third party. However it is not true that it cannot be altered at all.

For example, if I make my will, leaving all my possessions when I die to various parties, in the way that I specify, and it is duly signed, sealed, and witnessed, so that it is now a legal document, then it is true that it cannot be altered by anyone else. Those are my wishes, and that is the way it will be.

However, it may be that I later decide that I will alter the way I am splitting things. While I have the option to make an entirely new document, it is equally valid for me to alter my existing will, add certain things, take out certain things, or change certain things. That is my legal right. No one else can alter it, but I CAN.

Such a procedure is true in a number of other situations.

Surely, in the same way it is equally valid to say of God’s covenant – no man can alter it – but GOD, as the author of it, the One who set out the conditions, can ALTER the covenant, if He so chooses.

Luc said...

A will is a legal instrument but it is not a contract between two parties. You mentioned in a (previous comment) credit card companies changing interest rates, this is not one party changing the contract, the power to change interest rates is stipulated in the contract before hand (it’s in the fine print).

The author of a contract has no special power to change any stipulation previously agreed to on a whim. A change in a contract is accomplished through a renegotiation, no matter how trivial the change may be. The renegotiated contract must be signed and witnessed in the same way as the previous contract. A contract may only be ended by fulfillment of the terms; or by default, in which case the penalties stipulated in the contract are activated; or by mutual agreement between the two parties, which constitutes a renegotiation and must be signed and witnessed to protect the parties against any legal action based on the defunct contract, to assure that the former contracts’ penalties are not activated.

You could argue that God is above abiding by such rules, but God’s attributes include that his word never fails, which means he doesn’t renege on an agreement. This argument is tantamount to saying that God is dishonest.

We see Israel entering into the first contract in Ex 24:3-8 and sealed with animal blood. This is typified as a marriage agreement, Jer 3:14 “Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you.” Notice in Ex 24 how easy it was to enter into the contract, all they had to do was say “I do.”

Jesus blood seals the new contract; he has signed his half and awaits the balance of the signatories to sign theirs. All aspects of the contract must be presented before the pact is sealed or later on a charge of fraud might be brought to court. Jesus is the first party, the one who authors and presents the contract. The contract is with him, it is he who makes the offer, it is he who stipulates its’ terms. The God who follows through on his word, and expects others to do likewise, would be unjust in expecting a vague contract to be abided by. An unspecific allusion to the old contract hardly qualifies as specific terms.

In Matt 5 Jesus points out the differences between the old contract and the new contract; as an example, the old contract stipulates that an ‘eye for an eye’ would be the law; the new contract no longer includes this as one of its’ terms (Deut 19:21 “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot”).

jack635 said...

All the commandments can be summed up in one:

Love thy neighbor.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

There are a lot of preachers who lay burdens on people, and it makes me wonder if the even read the bible. They seem to only read and preach what they want to, ignoring the rest.

They look for and use any scripture (especially Malachi) that will give them control over their sheep and their sheep's money.

James Pate said...

This is kind of an off-the-cuff comment, and I'll look up the references if you ask me to do so. You may disagree with my interpretation of them.

My impression is that the law was changed even in the Old Testament. Israelites once celebrated Passover in their homes. Later, they did so in the central sanctuary. They once had to slaughter meat at the central sanctuary, but later they could do so elsewhere. As circumstances changed, so also did elements of the law. Israel didn't have to obey commands on manna once they entered the land.

God says that we can't add or subtract from the law, but does that mean that God can't?

I guess the position I lean towards is that the Old Testament law is still valid for Christians, but we don't have to do parts of it literally because it's been fulfilled by Christ. This could include the Sabbath, dietary rules, etc. That position makes sense to me because of the times the New Testament quotes the law of Moses and some of the Ten Commandments as authoritative for Christians.

Luc said...

The covenant is what is written from Ex 19 through 24, nothing here was altered. One may argue that the command to build only earth and none tooled rock was altered, but this was clearly referring to alters for personal use or you'd have to say God is spurious and just flaky since not long after the covenant was entered he commanded an elaborate alter to be built (Ex 27).

Commands that were altered or changed were not part of the contract. Only those thing that were stated at that time to which the people said "I do" comprise the covenant between God and Israel.

One of the commands was simply to obey him, so things commanded elsewhere when violated would be a covenant violation; but those things that are not specified before the people said "I do" are subject to change because they are rulings not the covenant itself.

James Pate said...

Hi Luc,

I think your example of the altar illustrates what I'm talking about. At one point, God's people had altars for personal use. Later, however, they could only worship at the place where the LORD had chosen--the central sanctuary.

Questeruk said...

Luc said...
"The covenant is what is written from Ex 19 through 24, nothing here was altered."

If Exodus 19 to 24 is the Old Covenant, then this means that many of the Old Testament laws would not be part of the Old Covenant.

One example would be clean and unclean food, which is not codified until later.

Luc said...

The Torah commands festival sacrifices,where God placed his name; but no command from God ended personal sacrifices. Here's a excerpt from The Straight

Over time, however, sacrifice became centralized at the Temple in Jerusalem. Exactly when and how this happened is unclear. The Bible describes various kings and high priests being more or less insistent upon centralized worship. Certainly King Hezekiah, who ruled Judah from about 715 to 687 BC, enacted religious and political reforms (according to the books of Isaiah, 2 Kings, and 2 Chronicles) that included the elimination of the "high places" of local sacrifices and the centralization of sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem.

With centralization of worship, the priests of Jerusalem gained enormous political power, and the priests outside of Jerusalem lost power. There was jealousy and rivalry and politics. Over the centuries, centralized worship sometimes led to corruption on the part of the priests who controlled the system (this is no surprise to anyone who has dealt with any organized, centralized religion). On the other hand, centralized worship created unity and national identity, whereas regionalization would likely have meant extinction.

James Pate said...

Deuteronomy 12:13-14 has:

"Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place you happen to see. But only at the place that the LORD will choose in one of your tribes--there you shall offer your burnt offerings and there you shall do everything I command you" (NRSV).

You may say that these are festival offerings, but something else to note is that Leviticus talks about non-festival offerings being brought to the bronze altar. For example, the early chapters of Leviticus discuss voluntary burnt offerings, or sin offerings people could offer whenever they sinned unintentionally. The priests of the central sanctuary had to be involved in these.

Also, in Joshua 22, the two-and-a-half tribes in the Transjordan get in trouble for building an altar, so they assure Joshua and the other Israelites that the altar is for memorial purposes, not sacrifices. That seems to confirm that the central sanctuary could be the only place for sacrifice.

As far as when centralization began, at least for Deuteronomy, it was to begin once the Israelites got control of the Promised Land (vv 8-12).

That's not to say that God couldn't reach out to Israelites when they disobeyed this rule, however, since God still reached out to Samson's parents when they built their own altar.

Luc said...

For the most part, I’d say sacrifices were to be done at the designated place, if anyone did a private offering, it wouldn’t be important enough to be recorded. There are at least three examples of other places where a sacrifice took place.

1Sa 20:6 (David speaking) If your father misses me at all, tell him, 'David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.'

During Samuel's time, the tabernacle was at Shiloh, but here an altar to the Lord at Mt. Carmel was in disrepair indicating it had been there for a while, Samuel repairs it with stone and earth after which his challenge to the priests of Baal takes place.1Ki 18:30 "Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins.31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel."

Saul built an altar before he fell out of favor with God (1 Sam 14:35), God showed no disapproval

James Pate said...

Yeah, that's traditionally explained by saying that the central sanctuary was sort of in limbo after Shilo got destroyed. Liberal biblical scholars might say that things were looser in Israelite religion at one point, but the Deuteronomist was big on the central sanctuary, and he came to impose his ideology on the Hebrew Bible. But we see examples in the stories of the freer approach.

Seeker Of Truth said...

I'm not offering up any scriptures, because ABD has given them all, multiple times in many of the articles posted here.

I'm going to repeat something else:

Do you have a preference!?

Ask yourself this question:
"What IF Holy Days & Sabbath are no longer law?"

"How would I feel about that? Would it seem wrong? Would I be uncomfortable?"

"If Holy Days & Sabbath are no longer law, would I be OK with that?"

Go ahead, pause here a moment & ask yourself... "If the Holy Days & Sabbath are no longer law, am I OK with that? Am I OK either way, which ever one were true?"

Because if your reaction is that "it's WRONG!" Then I have to tell you that you have a preference. You are more invested in those laws than you are in truth.

As I've told you all before, I told God: "If we are to keep Holy Days & Sabbath... fine, no problem. If we are not to keep Holy Days & Sabbath... fine. I have NO preference. All I want is YOUR truth." And he gave it to me! He opened my eyes to HIS truth!

I repeat this because despite all the excellent articles on this site & the excellent four articles that xHWA has written so very clearly and so well, you still cannot see the truth.

Bill said...

The Holy Spirit is not an "it."

The Holy Spirit is indeed one with personage. "He" is quoted as speaking in Scripture.


Bill said...

"I guess the position I lean towards is that the Old Testament law is still valid for Christians, but we don't have to do parts of it literally because it's been fulfilled by Christ."

Technically, the old testament laws were never valid for Christians as Christians, seeing as that covenant law ended before Christians existing; a Christian being defined as one who is in possession of the Holy Spirit.

Both old and new are treated as both covenants and testaments.

James Pate said...

You raise a valuable point, Bill, but Paul still appeals to Old Testament laws as authoritative--I Corinthians 9:9, Ephesians 6:1 (I think--Paul quotes "honor your father and mother").

Last time you and I interacted on this issue (on the Shadows site), your answer was that Paul was a Jew. Can you offer something better than that? I know your position is that the Old Covenant was between God and Israel, not God and others. But, with that belief, can you do something with Paul's appeal to the Old Testament law as a moral authority?

Luc said...

I am under the law of the USA which says murder is a crime; I’m not under the law of Great Britain, however its law says that murder is a crime also. I might reference the law of Great Britain as a valid example of a law that is civilized and facilitates an orderly humane society without being subject to it (because I live in the USA).

The apostle Paul in Rom 7 tells how we’re not under the law as a wife is not under the law of a husband who died, yet he says “we uphold the law” which sounds contradictory except that Paul tells us how the law is a teaching tool because (Rom 7:7) “I would not have known what sin is except through the law, and the law (Rom3:20) makes us conscious of sin.

Once you grow up you don’t simply disregard the law you were under as you grew up; most likely, if you had fair and wise parents, you would hold their rules in high regard because of the responsible person they helped to make you. Now as an adult you don’t have to keep them per se, but you have developed a sense of responsibility, you no longer need a list of do’s and don’ts because it is part of your character to be responsible. To say the law is holy just and good is the same kind of reverence a child should have for a good upbringing.

Gal 4:1 What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.v2 He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.v3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world (our own carnal nature) .v4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,v5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

James Pate said...

So it's like God gave the law to Israel as part of the old covenant, yet, because the law is from God, it contains good insights on how everyone should live.

One thing that confuses me: in Romans 2, Paul says that the Jews are under the law, whereas the Gentiles are subject to the law of their conscience. That's pretty much what rabbinic Judaism taught: Jews have to keep the law, whereas Gentiles are subject to bare standards of morality. But, while Paul says Gentiles are not under the law, he still seems to go out of his way to show that Christians are obeying the Old Testament law in the new covenant. For example, he says in Romans 8 that the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled by those who walk after the Spirit, not after the letter. xHWA cited Galatians in an earlier post--the passage where Paul says that love fulfills the law, which contains "Love your neighbor as yourself." There's also the passage you cite Luc--the law is to be regarded as holy, just, and good by Christians.

There's a part of Paul that treats the law as particular for Israel, but he also sees something universal to it, otherwise he wouldn't be trying to show that Christians are fulfilling it in some way, shape, or form. Maybe its universality comes from it serving some role in God's revelatory history, which relates to all people. I don't know.

Seeker Of Truth said...

Luc, you said: "Once you grow up you don’t simply disregard the law you were under as you grew up; most likely, if you had fair and wise parents, you would hold their rules in high regard because of the responsible person they helped to make you. Now as an adult you don’t have to keep them per se, but you have developed a sense of responsibility, you no longer need a list of do’s and don’ts because it is part of your character to be responsible. To say the law is holy just and good is the same kind of reverence a child should have for a good upbringing."

This is an excellent example and works well with the wife & husband situation of Ro. 7 also.
While she is married to her husband, she is bound to him. If he dies, she is no longer bound to him and she may marry another. Now that she is married to her new husband, she is bound to him.

She may have learned some great things from her old marriage and may use them in her new marriage, but just because she does, doesn't mean she's still bound to her first husband, it just means she learned some good stuff and applies it in the new.
Just because the stuff she learned was good and applies it to her new, it does not mean that she's still bound to the first.

The OC had it's glory, but the New is more glorious!
Jesus died. He's no longer married to Israel and Judah (OC).
He rose in the spirit. He is now engaged to marry His church.
We may not be married yet, but we have made an agreement to marry, we have entered a contract with Him (NC).

(Had a typo or two, or three, I missed in my comment so I deleted it and re-posted the corrected comment.)

Bill said...

"I know your position is that the Old Covenant was between God and Israel, not God and others. But, with that belief, can you do something with Paul's appeal to the Old Testament law as a moral authority?"

Sure. Paul makes a distinction between such points of law and works of the law; those points of law that required performance on the part of the one under the law.

Is it really enough though to just honor your parents? A Christian should have love even for an enemy, let alone a parent.

Then there is the issue of what constitutes a "moral" law. I would define one as being a point of law where there is never a justification for breaking said law, such as murder. Can you say the same for points of law such as the sabbath commandment? No.

Bill said...

"Romans 8 that the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled by those who walk after the Spirit, not after the letter."

All too often we read "the law" and assume it is referring to the legalities of the law. Paul establishes early on in Romans that righteousness comes through faith as established in the law, i.e. in the first 5 books and the narrative surrounding Abraham and his righteousness.

When Paul then states that we establish the law, he again is not referring to the legalities of the law, but that which he was just writing about; righteousness through faith as so stated in the law. Also, the law is established as the standard by which God's justice was served, what with the sacrifice of Christ that paid the penalty for sins within and without that written standard.

Bill said...

"He is now engaged to marry His church.
We may not be married yet, but we have made an agreement to marry, we have entered a contract with Him (NC)."

This is one of Armstrong's teachings, where he attempted to make the case that we are not a party to the new covenant until the second coming of Christ, with the conclusion being we therefore are still under the old covenant.

But a Christian is indeed now bound to Christ.

The new covenant began with the shedding of his blood, and when one receives the Holy Spirit, that is the born again experience.

To say we are not a party to the new ignores the way both covenants/testaments worked. The Israelites were sprinkled with the blood of the substitutionary animals. The Chrisitan is covered by the blood of Christ. The Christian's "old man" was/is put to death through baptism and a new man arises. We are a new creation in Christ.

Seeker Of Truth said...

Exactly Bill. Just because we are engaged, but not yet married does not mean we are not bound to Him. We are in fact bound to Him. Engagement is an agreement. So if a person were to have fling while they were engaged to another, they would be guilty of adultery. Whether our culture sees it that way or not.. if you agree to marry someone and have a fling with someone else, how is that any less adultery that if you have already married? It's not! You've made an agreement!

So yes, we are bound to Christ, who we are engaged to.

Luc said...

In the old covenant law, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ meant Israelites must love Israelites. The similar New Covenant command has no such boundaries.

Romans 2 is targeting some Jews who consider themselves superior because they keep the OC law, and v13 admits that a law keeper will be judged as righteous, but Paul’s’ astute audience is probably aware that this level of perfection is impossible. Throughout I detect a slight sardonic tone.

The Jews do have a choice in law since: Gal 3:28 says:"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus;" but it appears that there is only two choices. Can there be a vacuum of law?

I see the Old and New Covenant as the two choices open to humanity: internal or external law. This Idea was my turning point when a sociology prof presented this idea and then added, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone’s law was in their hearts, no external forces of coercion would be necessary, no police forces and no armies. The light went on and suddenly the juxtaposition of the OC and NC made sense, and I thought: "that describes the kingdom of God, could a good God strive for anything else but what is best?"

Israel was chosen to demonstrate one choice; a harsh external law where to strike your parent demanded death, I don’t think we want all the righteous requirements of the law, and that was probably Gods OC point, he would indeed prefer mercy to sacrifice. I’m sure the parent would rather forgive the child than to sacrifice him or her for the law.

Those not of the circumcision are Gentile, so in the following verse, Paul is not speaking of specifics like Sabbath keeping or stoning delinquents, but of Gods goal of the law: Rom 2:26 “If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?” What kind of circumcision? Rom 2:29 “ 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.”

Before the law was given (Gal 3:17 “The law, introduced 430 years later” after Abraham) there was sin, but nothing to use as a tangible reference point by which to define it (Rom 5:20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase). There is no trespass (in human understanding) if there is no line in which to cross. Although the law was given to Israel, the law has been a blessing to the nations who base their law upon it.

The law of love doesn’t strike me as being a simple case of do as your conscience directs. Gal 5:13 "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love."

James Pate said...

There's a lot of good stuff to chew on here!

BILL: "All too often we read "the law" and assume it is referring to the legalities of the law. Paul establishes early on in Romans that righteousness comes through faith as established in the law, i.e. in the first 5 books and the narrative surrounding Abraham and his righteousness. When Paul then states that we establish the law, he again is not referring to the legalities of the law, but that which he was just writing about; righteousness through faith as so stated in the law. Also, the law is established as the standard by which God's justice was served, what with the sacrifice of Christ that paid the penalty for sins within and without that written standard."

I'm open to that: establishing the law means affirming justification by faith in Genesis 15. I think Romans 8 refers more to the legal parts of the law, on the basis of that passage in Galatians which says love is the fulfillment of the law. I agree with something xHWA said here: when we love, we're fulfilling the purpose of the Old Testament law. I therefore see some continuity between the Old and New Testaments: it's not a matter of the law being "done away" and replaced with a "new law" that has some of the same stuff, but rather that our love fulfills the law in the Old Testament. And, yes, Jesus has added new requirements, or expanded on the old requirements--however you want to define it.

LUC: "In the old covenant law, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ meant Israelites must love Israelites. The similar New Covenant command has no such boundaries."

There were certainly Israelites who interpreted it that way. And, granted, in the Torah, we see "love the stranger as yourself" along with requirements that an Israelite could charge usury on a foreigner but not a fellow Israelite, as well as exclusion of Ammonites and Moabites.

But did Jesus interpret "love your neighbor as yourself" in that limited fashion? The context of the parable of the Good Samaritan, for example, does not say that Jesus is ditching the old law for something new. Rather, Jesus is quoting the old law, right before he explains what "neighbor" means (anyone, not just a Jew).

I thought your insights on Israel being a light to the nations were helpful. What God gave to Israel is Scripture, since it's from God. I think Bill said something like that when I discussed this on Shadows: The New Testament treats the Torah as Scripture, but that doesn't mean Christians are bound to a covenant that wasn't made with them in the first place.

xHWA said...

Here is a poignant quote from former SDA pastor, administrator,doctoral student at an SDA seminary and associate professor of theology at an SDA college, Richard Fredericks:

"But I came to realize that, in practice, the true integrating center of Seventh-day Adventist theology is not Jesus Christ,but the Sabbath. It defines their identity and ecclesiology. Contrary to Romans 11:5, SDA’s are taught they are God’s true remnant church because they keep the 7th-day Sabbath. It defines their soteriology and their eschatology: for Adventists, the Sabbath is the great issue that ultimately decides who wears the mark of the Beast and receives God’s wrath (because of Sunday-worship); and those who are sealed by God for salvation (because of Sabbath-keeping)."

He continues,

"In Adventism, anyone may openly question Christ’s sinless nature or even the sufficiency of His atonement and still be accepted. But to deny the 7th-day Sabbath as a moral test is grounds for immediate disfellowship."

And quite applicable to Armstrongism - which is, as a matter of historical record, a branch of the same group that eventually became known as SDA.

xHWA said...


First off, thanks for participating in our discussion and feeling comfortable enough to mention your thoughts. I hope you feel welcome.

About altering covenants, I would say:

(LUKE 16: 16-17) 16 The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.

It was easier for God to destroy all of physical creation than to alter the Covenant. His solution was from the beginning to annul the Covenant entirely in the death of the main party, Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 3: 7 & 13 lead me to believe that the Old Covenant was passing away from before Moses made it down the mountain.

All that I read led me to the (at that time very uncomfortable) conclusion that God did not alter the covenant, but planned to discard it.

Now, to me, that doesn't mean God discarded good and evil, He merely discarded the codification (and therefore the condemnation) of the Old Covenant law. He replaced that with what you might call the Royal Law, or the law of faith, which is love. Love and faith existed before the OC law, so when the law was removed the first principles were revealed again (you could say the law covered them up like a veil and is now taken out of the way by Christ). But the OC law was built from the same principle, therefore love will fulfill the righteous requirements of the OC law.

xHWA said...

One more thing that I see:

"GOD, as the author of it, the One who set out the conditions, can ALTER the covenant, if He so chooses."

This would make sense from one perspective. However, what I see from many Armstrongists is the exact opposite argument. When challenged to study into meats or tithes or Sabbath or holy days, many Armstrongists tell me almost automatically:

(MAL. 3: 6) For I am the LORD, I do not change


(MATT. 5: 18) For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

And in this they claim the law has not nor will it ever change.
Yet, at the very same time, they claim Jesus altered the law.

I am confident that you recognize this example of what is referred to as "Cognitive Dissonance", (which for those who don't know is holding two opposing beliefs at the same time). One cannot claim that the law is eternal/unalterable AND claim that the law has been changed.

So, then their solution to the uncomfortable feeling becomes "Jesus only changed part of the law". Which brings us again full circle again to MAL. 3: 6 & MATT. 5: 18... only now add GAL. 5: 3 and JAS. 2: 10!

I would think it is simpler by far to just accept the Gospel, which says Jesus' death & resurrection to life is the end of the law for those who believe.

RKPDRMR said...

xHWA and Seeker,

I just read the article "Common Legalist Arguments, Part IV.

And as I have left UCG not too long ago, and I am still trying to clear my mind from Armstrongism, I have a quick comment.

So many things you say in your article are exactly what I am thinking about all of this, although you have covered it in a much more comprehensive and detailed manner than I could.

My point is this: I am amazed at how we can come to so many of the same conclusions, if we just read the Bible for ourselves, without the "aid" of the church literature booklets!

Seeker Of Truth said...


This is so true!
There's nothing wrong with looking at what others offer up, we just need to make sure it's true.
People have a tendency to assume that a 'Minister' is teaching truth, or has it right. And we know that too many Ministers claim to have it straight from God.

I don't know how many times I've read someones statement that when they get confused they go read HWA's literature! Wow! What happened to searching God's Word for the answers and asking Him to reveal it?

It is up to us to do as the Bereans did and make sure that what we hear is true. We should never rely on the lone scriptures given us by one making a case for their argument. It is our responsibility to search out many more scriptures on the subject to verify what is and is not true.
I imagine people may be tired or getting tired of me repeating this a multitude of times, but it's a huge deal to me... hence the name of this blog. =)

I strongly believe that if we ask God to reveal His truth to us and tell Him we have no preferences, that He will do so.

After all... we want to please Him, and don't we need the truth to do that?

xHWA said...


I'm strapped for time, so I'll have to make a quick comment.
I wanted to say thank you! I am so filled with joy that ABD has been a help to you. And to see you walking in faith.

And I wanted to say that God deeply, deeply, and sincerely loves you. He loved you while you were in the UCG, and He loves you now. More than we as humans can comprehend.

As an article of faith I am sure that the angels in heaven rejoice over seeing your faith. You've made the hard choice to leave the UCG. Awesome!
We'll be here with you and for you in whatever you need. Email me if you want and we'll talk.