Thursday, October 7, 2010

If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments

In my last post, I went over the idea that "[After baptism] all our sins past are forgiving us, we are now covered by grace so that when we do sin we are forgiven." It became quite clear that within Armstrongism, grace and forgiveness are earned through a partial keeping of the Old Covenant law. This is not what you'll read in the literature, but in practice it becomes obvious.
This time I would like to move forward and address the idea that law-keeping = loving Jesus. (I apologize in advance for the length of this post.)

"We keep the laws and commandments because we love Him. He was the one who gave the commandments! They are not burdensome as false ministers teach"

If you will permit me a brief side-bar, I wish to discuss something before we dive in.

I think most Armstrongists (outside of the ministry) are motivated by a deep desire to love Jesus and be loved by Him. I don't think the adherents to Armstrongism are evil by any means, just misguided (remember, until recently I was one). In general, Armstrongists are just normal people who wake up each day and wonder "How?" How do I please God? How do I overcome sin? How do I repent? How do I walk orderly and upright? How do I become a better person? How do I place my feet on firm ground? How do I avoid condemnation? How can God love a wretch like me? They see the answer in the law. "The law will tell me how. Here is the prescription to guide me." I have no criticism for a heart that sees its need for a Savior. 

I just have no respect for those who take advantage of people's insecurities. Unfortunately, the solution presented by Herbert Armstrong, as convincing and simple as it may sound, is in all honesty dead, dead wrong.

Thanks for the side-bar. That being said, let's move forward.

THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

This idea that we can't love Jesus without keeping the Ten Commandments comes from a misunderstanding of the word "commandments" and that stems from a misunderstanding of the Old and New Covenants. The Armstrongist view of the Bible blends the two Covenants so that they are no longer distinct or recognizable. What they end up with is in fact a third thing, an amalgam that satisfies neither. This is the single most fundamental error that we at ABD can seem to pinpoint. It leads to so many other errors. It must be cleared up. It's important. Jesus died to make a distinction between the two! So let's look at that briefly.

A covenant, be it mans or Gods, cannot be altered once it is agreed upon. Paul makes that point in GAL. 3: 15.
The Old Covenant was confirmed at Sinai (EXO. 19: 8). The Old Covenant was confirmed with the blood of animals, sealing it (HEB. 9: 18). The Old Covenant was between God and Israel only, and did not include the Gentiles (EPH. 2: 12). The Old Covenant was not changed slightly, it was destroyed completely (HEB. 8: 13). Now there is a New Covenant, confirmed in the blood of Jesus (MAR. 14: 24; HEB. 8: 8; 12: 24). The New Covenant is not like the Old Covenant (HEB. 8: 9). The New Covenant is a better covenant with better promises (HEB. 8: 6). The New Covenant is offered to all men (I TIM. 4: 10; TIT. 2: 11). Jesus abolished the Old in His flesh so that in the New Covenant the Jews and the Gentiles could be one (EPH. 2: 15). The Old Covenant brought bondage; the New Covenant sets men free (GAL. 4: 24-26). The New Covenant is not in the oldness of the letter, but the newness of the Spirit (ROM. 7: 6). The New Covenant is an everlasting covenant (HEB. 13: 20). [For a more complete comparison of the Covenants, please read "Old Covenant vs. New Covenant" and "Two Trees - Two Covenants"]

If you take away only one thing from the previous paragraph, then take away this: the Old Covenant is destroyed absolutely.
If it is not destroyed, then you cannot be wed to Jesus. The Old Covenant, exactly like a marriage covenant, is only in force so long as the parties are alive. Once the main party dies, the covenant is completely released (ROM. 7: 1-3; I COR. 7: 39). Jesus died; Old Covenant gone; all are released; end of story. Not only that, but if it was not destroyed, then Jesus is not our High Priest. Not one jot nor title could pass from the law until it was all fulfilled (MAT. 5: 18). It was completely fulfilled (JON. 19: 28), so it has all passed away (COL. 2: 11-15). But not only did Jesus die; we die as well in Him (ROM. 7: 6; GAL. 2: 19). What hold can the Old Covenant have, then?

WHAT WAS THE OLD COVENANT

I have met a few Armstrongists who will argue that the Old Covenant was not destroyed or that the New Covenant will not begin until the Second Coming. This was not universally taught in Armstrongism, but it was taught in certain congregations. That position is so blatantly anti-Biblical that I won't address it. The Old Covenant is abolished. To know what was abolished, we need to know what the Old Covenant was. So let's ask - what exactly was the Old Covenant?
The Restored Church of God makes this bold claim:


"Most professing Christians falsely brand the Ten Commandments as the 'Old Covenant.'”
-The Restored Church of God, "What Does The New Testament Teach About Law and Grace?"
But this, oh best beloved, is a display of either rank ideological prejudice or total Biblical illiteracy of the first magnitude. As we made clear in the post "The Covenant and the Testimony", and you can read the verses for yourself, the Ten Commandments are the very foundation of 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.

In addition to this, there are 45 verses in the KJV where the phrase “Ark of the Covenant” can be found (NUM. 10: 33; 14: 44; DEU. 10: 8; 31: 9, 25, 26; JOS. 3: 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17; 4: 7, 9, 18; 6: 6, 8; 8: 33; JDG. 20: 27; I SAM. 4: 3-5; II SAM. 15: 24; I KIN. 3: 15; 6: 19; 8: 1, 6, 9, 21; I CHR. 15: 25-29; 16: 6, 37; 17: 1; 22: 19; 28: 2, 18; II CHR. 5: 2, 7, 10; 6: 11; JER. 3: 16; HEB. 9: 4). Why do you suppose they call it that? Because it's the Ark (container) of the Old Covenant (the two tablets of the Ten Commandments).

So, who is the RCG calling a liar, God or Moses?

It is not that "The Penalty of the Law" was removed. The whole letter of the law itself was removed. It's not just "enmity" that was abolished, but Paul says the law is the enmity (EPH. 2: 15). That only makes sense, because it was the law that kept Jew and Gentile separate. There is no way around this. 

I am so very sorry if this throws a huge monkey wrench into your view of doctrine. I may have sent your faith into a tilt, or maybe not, but I can promise you this: the New Covenant, should you now choose to step into it, is far better than what you had been keeping. "Do not be afraid; only believe" (MAR. 5: 36b).

COMMANDMENTS?

If we didn't go through that last section to lay some important ground-work, we could not proceed without seeing the error in today's subject.

It is nearly universal in Armstrongism to believe that keeping the Old Covenant law, most especially the Ten Commandments, is how one loves God. I disagree.


All of these verses (JON. 14: 15, 21; 15: 10; I COR. 7: 19; I JON. 2: 3-4; 3: 22, 24; 5: 2-3; REV. 12: 17; 14: 12) mention keeping "commandments". Let's not be so sloppy as to see the word "commandments" and immediately assume it can only mean the Ten Commandments. If you look up the Greek, there is nothing to indicate that the word "commandments" is in reference to the Ten Commandments specifically. In other verses you might see the English word "commands" for example. What does this mean? It means that, to put it in my own words, if you love Jesus, keep the things He commands you to keep. Don't let the English translation throw you off track.
Even if it did mean Ten Commandments, that still has nothing to do with the other partial-laws HWA taught, like meats. But I digress.

We have already more than demonstrated that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of the Old Covenant, and that Covenant is completely and utterly destroyed. Now think logically about this - if keeping the Old Covenant laws specifically are how we express love to Jesus, then the Old Covenant cannot be gone, can it? And thus we have caused a huge problem by our interpretation. We've actually undone the New Covenant and made Jesus' death of no effect. These verses cannot be referring to the laws of the abolished Old Covenant. Therefore, again, the things Jesus has commanded us cannot be the Ten Commandments. The whole evidence simply will not support that conclusion.
So let's look at what these verses actually mean.

A BETTER UNDERSTANDING

Notice that the above list of verses are from John, who writes a great deal about love. In all of these verses from John, the direct context is love, not Old Covenant law.


In his epistles, John is paraphrasing from what Jesus said, as is recorded in John 15: 10-17. John chose them in his gospel and epistles for a reason. What is it that John is emphasizing in his writing, and that Jesus is emphasizing in his comments? Love. 
Some form of the word love appears ten times in John 14, and ten more times in the next chapter. 38 times John mentions love in his epistles. (How many times does 'Sabbath' appear in John's gospel? Zero. In fact, John only ever mentions the Sabbath within the context of Jesus appearing to have violated it. John never mentions the Sabbath in his epistles at all.) It's about love. Jesus' "commandments" are faith and love. This fits in perfect step with the greatest commandments as Jesus said in Mark 12: 30-31.

Are these principles of faith and love also found in the Old Testament? Yes. No one is saying the Old Testament violates love. However, we are looking above the Ten Commandments here. Faith and love fulfill the Ten Commandments, but the Ten Commandments don't come close to fulfilling faith and love. John is not reaching back to Sinai, he is reaching back to the source: Christ Jesus. What are the commandments of Jesus? Have faith in Him, and love our neighbor.
 

Can we prove this from the Bible? Yes. John comes right out and blatantly tells us to which commandments both he and Jesus are referring:

(I JON. 3: 23) And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
(I JON. 4: 21) And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
(II JON. 1: 5) And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another.

You'd either have to be Biblically illiterate like the RCG up there or willfully ignorant to insist that John is referring to the Ten Commandments when John specifically tells us to which commands he is referring - and those aren't the Ten. To claim the above verses can only refer to the Ten Commandments specifically is wholly improper. It simply is not "letting the Bible interpret the Bible."

Think about this from the perspective of love and faith. Let us reason together. If the Ten Commandments are being referred to, then this is putting the cart before the horse indeed, because all of the New Testament tells us love is the fulfillment of the Commandments, not the other way around. The Ten Commandments are not greater than love, that they should fulfill love, for God Himself is love (I JON. 4: 8). Love, not law.

And what prevents anyone from accepting that faith and love are being referred to here? Is it the 4th Commandment? 

This view of requiring the Ten Commandments in order to love Jesus, as reasonable as it may seem at first, works against the Armstrongist system, because as we've shown so many times, they don't actually keep the 4th Commandment as the law is written. 
Understand the 4th Commandment is fulfilled just like the rest of the law. Why is it that HWA used to go on about how the other Commandments were "magnified," but we insist the 4th Commandment must only be kept in its Old Covenant form? Perhaps, could it be, just possibly could it be, that the Sabbath Commandment is "magnified" in a way that you simply haven't heard of? Perhaps because there was no way HWA was going to let any other interpretation be possible? HWA always said the only Commandment the world had a problem with is the Fourth; we say HWA was the one who had a problem with it. Please read "How Is The Sabbath Fulfilled?".

Let's move away from John and look at Paul.

I Corinthians 7: 19 must be seen in its context. I COR. 7 is about the state in which we were called, specifically the area arround v.19 is in reference to physical circumcision being a non-factor, and this verse must be taken in that context - aided by other verses on this topic, such as (GAL. 5: 6; 6: 15; ROM. 2: 25-29). This isn't a call to Old Covenant law-keeping. This is simply another way of saying, "It's not what's on the outside that matters, but what's on the inside." 
We must not abuse this verse through proof-texting (taking one word out of context to build a doctrine around it).

That said, Paul agrees completely with John that love fulfills the whole law (ROM. 13: 8-9; GAL. 5: 14; I TIM. 1: 5). If you take I COR. 7: 19 and GAL. 5: 6 together, it becomes blatantly obvious that the "commandment" is faith and love. Even James agrees (JAS. 2: 8).

Now, let's compare two very similar, but seemingly contradictory verses:

(I COR. 7: 19) Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.
(GAL. 5: 6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

From an Armstrongist perspective, I COR. 7: 19 is interpreted as speaking about the Ten Commandments, and GAL. 5: 6 is talking about faith. An apparent contradiction. So, which is it? We have demonstrated the weakness of the position that "commandments" = Ten Commandments. But if we understand that "commandments" are faith and love, suddenly these two verses snap together, in unison speaking the exact same message. The letter of the law can never be written on your heart, but faith and love can!

We can also finally understand how John would say that Jesus' commands are not burdensome (I JON. 5: 3), because the very topic John is speaking of is love and faith (I JON. 5: 1-5), while the law is several times shown to be a burden indeed. Jesus' burden is light (MAT. 11: 30)! John refers to Jesus' words, not Moses'. 
Contrast that with the lawyers who greatly burden people, but will not lift a finger to help (MAT. 23: 4). Or how Peter called the Old laws [and this is about the law, see v.5 and v.24] a yoke no man could bear (ACT. 15: 8-11). Or how Paul says the Covenant from Sinai gives birth to bondage (GAL. 4: 24), and the letter kills (II COR. 3: 6), and that the strength of sin is the law (I COR. 15: 56), and that the law brings a curse (GAL. 3: 10), and how it estranges us from Christ (GAL. 5: 4), and that it is a ministry of death written and engraved on stones (II COR. 3: 7).

A GRAVE WARNING

Even after all of this, even after proving that the Ten Commandments cannot possibly remain after the cross because they are the foundation of the Old Covenant and that Covenant is gone, even after proving that God's "commandments" are faith and love, there will still be some who "love the law" more than truth.
Case in point - almost to the last one, just about every piece of literature that has come from Armstrongism/Adventism that discusses this topic will offer you two possibilities: law or sin. It is in fact a false dilemma; a red herring to throw your thinking off. The choice is not "keep the law" or "dive into sin." The real choice is Spirit or flesh. It might be a little difficult to see the difference, so let's look at an example or three of how people reason around the truth to cling to the Old Covenant.

--"So you mean," they have been taught to ask so very furtively, "if the Ten Commandments are gone, I can have an adulterous affair?" 
If the law is faith and love, and the Holy Spirit is leading you, written law or no written law, adultery is a violation of love, it is not from the Spirit or the purity of Christ, and therefore it will not be something that a person who is following the Spirit will be participating in. If you are led by the Spirit, you won't need the law to tell you adultery is wrong. Love fulfills the righteous requirements of the law.

--"What is so un-loving about keeping the Ten Commandments?" 
To which I say, the law itself is a good law, there's nothing un-loving about keeping the Ten Commandments. But it's when we judge and condemn others that we make it into a weapon and attack others with it un-lovingly. Remember the quote from the last post? "There is no point for me to speak with you. ... So off you go to your Babylonian church on SUNday. Enough of this nonsense! As the dog returns to the vomit so are those who leave the written scriptures to follow man's traditions. ... These must be a few of your ancestors! Ish:66:17.If you truly want to love Jesus, do what Jesus does command. If you love, you will find that you are fulfilling the righteous requirements of the entire law.

--"Since Jesus died for us how can we go back to sin? Shouldn't we be asking Him to help us turn from our carnal ways to keeping His laws with thankfulness?" 
If the law was what He wanted you to turn to, then that might be a great idea! Unfortunately, it is not. This question assumes that righteousness comes from keeping the law. Righteousness is not of the law, it comes from faith and love. Love fulfills the righteous requirements of the law. Our faith is counted as righteousness. Looking for righteousness in the law is not a path to pleasing God, but is a path to false pride and frustrated failure. Paul states that God does not want us to try to gain righteousness from the law (PHP. 3: 9). What's more, it makes His death in vain (GAL. 2: 21). Certainly, that is not the thanks you want to express to Jesus! God is not impressed by our efforts by any means. He doesn't want our righteousness - He wants His righteousness in us. That can only come by faith, and the law is not faith. God doesn't want you to turn to the law, but to Him. In the Old covenant, the law was "thou shalt." In the New covenant, God says "I will." Turn to God, not the law.
Make a Lord and Savior of Jesus Christ, not the law. Insisting upon the Old covenant law, seeing that Jesus died to end the Old Covenant, is not pleasing to God, but it is idolatry; it is making an idol of the law. No, Jesus does not want you to turn to sin. No, grace is not a license to sin. But keep in mind, Armstrongism doesn't teach the whole law anyway.

The point I'm making may seem subtle, but it's not. Jesus didn't die for a subtle difference. You know that you aren't righteous. None of us are. The law served to illustrate that fact. If your best is only filthy rags, how then can more filthy rags be pleasing to Him? The Pharisees didn't impress Jesus with their legalism. Your righteousness must exceed theirs. How? Only when faith is credited to you as righteousness can this be possible. God's righteousness working inside you. You are in communion with His body. You are His temple
.
 His very presence makes holy. 
There is no longer any condemnation for you (ROM. 8: 1). How is that insufficient? To illustrate it more clearly - don't ask for God to help you to do it, rather ask Him to do it. Take your focus off of your own efforts and trust in His. Then, "Do not be afraid; only believe" (MAR. 5: 36b).

These are all cleaver little questions that are not very well thought through and are designed to confuse and throw faith off track. There are many of them! So I warn you now about them. But if you truly love Jesus, do what Jesus commands -- have faith and love.

(JON. 6: 28-29) 28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

CONCLUSION

We have looked at "If you love Me, keep My commandments" from two perspectives - Old Covenant law and New Covenant love/faith. We have seen how each and every verse agrees with love, but none of them agree with Herbert Armstrong's teachings on law. The Ten Commandments are the Old Covenant, and the Old Covenant is gone; abolished when Jesus died. This can't be ignored. Denying this over and over won't make it any different. 
In its place is a New Covenant of love and faith. So we can see that the way to love Jesus is not to be found in the old, abolished, shadowy Ten Commandments, but above them, and beyond them. And we are not to be judged by them (COL. 2: 16-17).
If you want to love Jesus, love those whom Jesus loves. If you want to love Jesus, believe in Him. If you want the answers to "How?" then trust. 

Ask God for His truth, and no one's besides. His truth; not mine, not yours, not HWA's. Ask Him for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to which of the two ways is the right way. Allow the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit to change and guide you rather than trying to guide yourself by your own works through an external set of laws that can never change your heart. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (ROM. 8: 1). It says "Spirit" not "law." Stop focusing on fixing your insufficiency and understand that the Spirit is Holy, and if that Spirit is in you, God's Holiness is in you. Christ is the end of the law as a means of righteousness for everyone who believes (ROM. 10: 4). Desire to be led in the newness of the Spirit rather than the oldness of the letter, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life! Then simply trust Him to take care of it.
Trust in Him with your whole heart. Step into His New Covenant!

(JON. 14: 15) If you love Me, keep My commandments.
(I JON. 3: 23) And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.



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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 yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11
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12 comments:

xHWA said...

I hear "If you love Me, keep My Commandments, and Jesus gave the Ten Commandments, so we must keep them." That's the premise of this post.
But think about it.....

Jesus was in Israel during the Old Covenant, talking to people who had the Ten Commandments already. The Pharisees kept the letter of the Ten Commandments. Legalists love to point out the "rich young ruler" who kept the Ten Commandments all his life.
Right?
So, I am supposed to believe that Jesus shows up in a place and at a time when most everyone is keeping the Ten Commandments, and He says "If you love Me, keep the Ten Commandments"?? That makes no sense at all. Think of it like this....

Let's have an imaginary conversation between Jesus and the "rich young ruler":

[Jesus] "If you love Me, keep the Ten Commandments."
[Man] "I do. In fact, I have for my entire life."
[Jesus] "Then keep the Ten Commandments."
[Man] "Right. Ummm... I do. I always have."
[Jesus] "Then if you love Me, keep the Ten Commandments."
[Man] "We're Israelites. We all keep the Commandments. We hear about them weekly at synagogue. The Priests keep them. The Pharisees, Saducees, Lawyers and Scribes do too. My whole family does, and I have since I can remember.
[Jesus] "Then keep the Ten Commandments."
[Man] "..... I don't get what you mean."
[Jesus] "I'm telling you that if you love Me, keep the Ten Commandments."
[Man] "Teacher, I don't want to sound disrespectful, but we are Jews; people of the Covenant. As you well know, that IS the Covenant. We are already doing that. So, we already love you?"
[Jesus] "No. You don't love Me. You can't hear My words because I preach the Ten Commandments to you."
[Man] "Oh my! I have just remembered that I left something on the stove."

Do you see how silly it is to assume that "commandments" means "Ten Commandments"? Now, what else could Jesus have been saying? Like I said in the post... love and faith!

Let's imagine Jesus spoke the words differently, and let's see if that makes more sense:

[Jesus] "You have had the law given to you by Moses, but now I have come. If you love Me, stop the old ways and start practicing the ways I command you to keep. If you love Me, do the things that I now tell you to do. Have faith in God, and love your neighbor as yourself."
[Man] "I've been doing that my whole life. I zealously keep the Ten Commandments."
[Jesus] That's wonderful! Now, go beyond.. In love, sell all you have and give it to the poor, then in faith, come follow Me."
[Man] ":-( I just remembered that I left something on the stove."
...
[Jesus] "Ten Commandments, wealth, power.. none of this impresses Me."
[Crowd] "Who then can be saved??"
[Jesus] "Through your own efforts - be it law-keeping or otherwise - it is impossible for any man to follow what I command. But I am the fullness of God; the law was but a shadow of My righteousness. If I am in you, working in your inner-most being, then My holiness sets you apart, and all things that I desire are possible for you."

Now, which of the two makes more sense?

Anonymous said...

I've never been a follower of Armstrongism or a SDA, however, the problem today doesn't seem to be as much legalism as it is liberalism. There is a ditch on both sides of the road! I really enjoyed this post but I like to read one on turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. Or what communion hath light with darkness. Because there is no lie of the truth, Christmas and Easter do NOT glorify Christ. Expose all the false doctrine of the Roman harlot, along with the health/wealth Laodecian money loving crowd.

xHWA said...

Anon, I completely agree with you that there are ditches on both sides of the road and the growing threat these days is liberalism.
I couldn't agree with that more.

Unfortunately, this blog is geared towards reaching out to a group who has Puritanical legalism as their practice and liberalism isn't a problem for them.

If you find a good blog post about that somewhere, please let us know and we'll link to it.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous. Easter and Christmas DO absolutely glorify Christ if you intend for them to glorify Christ. Christ looks at the heart. You are not defiled by the world. You are defiled by YOU. That's why Paul told the church at Corinth that eating meat sacrificed to idols was ok if the people at Corinth didn't INTEND it to be idolatrous and didn't cause others with weaker consciences to sin by partaking in something they thought was wrong. It's amazing to me that you could read this whole article about legalism and the old rules passing away and then invent some new ones for us straight out of the 1st book of I Think So. (Christmas came from Rome so it's sinful. Uh...the last time I checked, meat sacrificed on the alter of Diana is at least as pagan in source, so you have a problem of consistency here.) A day is sinful...REALLY? A DAY? No. You are sinful. I am sinful. And if you don't intend Christmas to offend God, but to exalt him, then it does just that. It's all about the heart. Nothing is sinful in and of itself. It's YOU that makes it sinful or not.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post, but would like to see your thoughts on an actual conversation Jesus had. In Mark 10:17-21 Jesus says "thou knowest the Commandments" and he references the 10 Commandments. Clearly Christ is saying that keeping the 10 Commandments is important. This does not save one, but it is a fruit of faith. Interestingly the 10 Commandments were in effect PRIOR to Moses else Cain could not have sinned by murdering Able. Isaiah 66:23 indicates that the Sabbath will be observed after the 2nd coming...I can't figure out how the 10 Commandments are null and void when they predate the "law of Moses/God" as given to Moses, when Christ reiterates them, and then they will be observed in the Kingdom of God.

The question of what Christ commands is intriguing and challenging and I'm still figuring it out, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

xHWA said...

Anon 5-23-15,

Welcome. Thanks for visiting. I refer you to my first comment here on this post for my thoughts on that verse.

We have more on this in the FAQ. Look for the section"Didn’t Jesus tell the rich man that keeping the 10 Commandments was required?"

Thanks, and God bless.

matt mckinney said...

Agree. I grew up torn between Sunday and Saturday church goers. I chose on my own sunday.I'm 38 now and love my father that's a Saturday Armstrong believer. But it tore my mom and dad apart. The sat. Church goers see it as "your going to hell if you don't keep the day" . There ideology is based on A Day and are not loving to others. I've told him , my father , if it makes you feel closer to God to keep a day, do it! That's awesome! But because I choose not to don't judge me. That's not man's job. The law is an idol to them and it's sad they get caught up in that and seem to miss out were saved by Grace. The law can't be keep by faith. You must go sat. Or your hell bound is a order of life the we believers in the old test, needed to get them so kind on line to walk. "Only to the Father through the Son" , not through A Day. God bless and be well all. Love one another and stop judging the thorn in my eye when you have a log in yours. Amen

Anonymous said...

I am a little confused here. if the old testament has been totally abolished and the commands, ordinances, statutes, and all is abolished, how is a family that does not know about God or the bible, such as tribes in Africa. villages, or those who practice having many wives and sleeping with family members as many that live in the Kentucky mountains, when we bring them to salvation, how are we going to prove to them that this acts that they are used to live by are wrong before the eyes of God. I am going to say its wrong and they are going to say where does it say its wrong. Show me where in the New Testament does Jesus say its wrong. Are we going to tell them its ok Jesus says as long as you show love while doing it and ask for forgiveness afterward. Because this is what Jesus shows to do in the New Testament. I would like to hear where in the New Testament I can find this or in you teachings so that I can tell them, as I am a minister of the word of God. Thanks and please I hope you show this and not do away with it like the old testament.

xHWA said...

Anonymous March 30, 2016,

Thanks for reading and God bless. About your comment, you seem to be misunderstanding us here. We are not saying that the Old Testament is abolished. The Old Testament is an entire section of the Bible from Genesis to Jesus. We aren't saying people should throw away huge sections of their Bible. What we said is that the Old Covenant is abolished. This was done by Jesus Himself. He established the New Covenant in His own blood. The Old Covenant is abrogated. Gone. Replaced. And I would say, with all respect to you, if you are going to be a minister then you should fully understand this before you preach a word to anyone.

If you are going to expect the Old Covenant to still be binding, then you must obey ALL of it. You must be an Israelite, or join the nation of Israel through being circumcised and taking certain oaths administered by an authorized official of Judaism. Then you are going to teach you must be trained in the ways of Judaism, which means you must become a Priest (or at least a Rabbi). And you must offer animal sacrifices, and do absolutely every word mentioned in the whole law without fail. This is what the Old Covenant is. You cannot teach someone that they should not practice witchcraft because the Old Covenant says not to do that, but fail to teach them they are required to travel to Jerusalem three times a year to offer burnt offerings to God. Both of these are required in the Old Covenant law. You cannot teach one and fail to teach the other. You cannot fail to teach one word.

Do not be in a hurry to get into the Old Covenant and its laws, as Paul says plainly when you rely on the Old Covenant and its laws then you are removed from grace.

(GAL. 5: 4) You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

You who desire to teach the law, do you not know the law? The Old Covenant is bondage! Read Galatians, especially chapters 4 and 5. Is that what you are looking to teach the people? To be in bondage? Or do you want freedom for them? I know that you want freedom for them.

What we recommend you do, as a minister of the word of God, is to teach people about the Word of God first and foremost - Jesus Christ. This is what Paul did. He preached Christ and Him crucified (I COR. 1: 23). Teach the people how Jesus our Savior is greater than their idols, greater than their worries, and greater than their sins. Once you have preached Christ and forgiveness of sins, then explain the New Covenant and its expectations. What are those? Faith and love. Have faith in God and love your neighbor. If these are the things you teach people to do then you teach them the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. If you teach people that every act they do should be faith and love always, with thanksgiving to God, then what worry have you about the Old Covenant?

Martha said...

Anonymous, thanks for reading! HWA has some great points here, he has explained how to deal with sin from a standpoint of grace better than I do.

But if I understand correctly, you had a question about how you could tell those whom you pastor, either with multiple wives or incestuous relationships, that they are sinning before God, from the New Testament.

In the case of tribal Africa, Jesus himself addressed this, tangentially. In Matthew 5:31 we see that anyone who divorces his wife, except because of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

From this we can deduce that husbands and wives are to remain faithful to one another and to one spouse, and that sexual immorality (not remaining faithful) is the only thing that negates that responsibility.

Right before that, we see in Matthew 5:27-30, we see that a man who looks on a woman with lust is guilty of adultery. He does not even have to physically sin, the thought is sin. Therefore men (and women) must remain faithful in mentally as well as physically. Not remaining mentally or physically faithful to one's spouse is sin.

In Acts 15:20, one of the few restrictions placed on the gentiles was to abstain from sexual immorality. Sexual immorality can mean many things in the Greek. Adultery. Homosexualty. Fornication. Any form of sexual un-cleanness.

As far as incest, we have direct prohibition of that, too. 1 Corinthians specifically declares Paul's outrage that a man committing incest is allowed in the congregation.

In verses 9 and 10, Paul reminds the Corinthians that he told them not to associate with sexually immoral people, and in verse 13 they are told to cast out the man who is committing incest (with hopes of restoring him to fellowship later).

Please don't make the mistake of us promoting grace as license to sin. It isn't. But we must make sure that we are referring to the proper covenant when we define sin, as well as embracing a New Testament understanding of sin. Check out xHWA's post Confusing the Covenants on this one.

http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2014/10/confusing-covenants.html

http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2014/07/antinomianism-and-motivation-of-heart.html



Questioner said...

Hello,

This is an excellent post that I am just now discovering. I have never noticed that we take "if you love God, keep His commandments" completely out of the context of the surrounding verses. Brilliant!

I've also read through the comments, and they bring about some good points to think about.

I like how you used John's writings mostly, so people couldn't automatically go to the Peter Scripture where it says Paul's writings are twisted by others. That is most helpful for my own bank of knowledge.

Do you think then it is wrong to keep certain aspects of the law, if you see that they bring physical and spiritual blessings? (as long as you don't say that you have to)

Thanks for your help in uncovering the scriptures!

-Questioner

xHWA said...

Questioner, God bless, thanks for reading, SO glad you are benefiting here (glory be to God), and thanks for commenting.

In our studies we have concluded that, no, there is nothing wrong with keeping some of the law provided that you are not using the law to judge or condemn either yourself or others. The Old Covenant law can really do two things: shows us our sin and condemn us for it. It cannot save or forgive or justify or increase our righteousness. Plus, the physical blessings of the Old Covenant are also gone with that Covenant. They were only for Israel anyway.

How can I say that? Three things:

1) For two thousand years the church has taught that the Old Covenant is utterly gone, yet law can be a benefit.

2) In Acts 15, the Apostles were given understanding by the Holy Spirit that the Gentiles never were and never will be bound to the law. (We have articles on that.) However, when James and Paul spoke in Acts 21, James made it clear that all of the Jewish converts were zealous for the law (ACT. 21: 20). If they are allowed to keep it as a part of their national heritage and identity, then it cannot be wrong to keep it.

3) What's more, we at ABD have come out of legalism and we know that this is not something you simply stop cold turkey. We recognize that when people come to the knowledge of grace, they are just starting, and as more grace comes in more legalism goes out. There is no sin in keeping some of what you've always known while learning how to rely on the Holy Spirit from the Father through Jesus Christ. Baby steps! So, again, it cannot be wrong to keep it.

People might read this and conclude that you're asking is the same as the comment from Anon March 30, and that I'm contradicting what I said earlier. But I disagree. Sure, it is related. But it's not the same.

Anon March 30 wanted to know how do you get people to stop sinning without turning to the Old Covenant requirements. You do it the way Paul did. Christ and Him crucified! So I responded that the first and most important thing is to introduce them to their Lord. What I left barely said is that the Old Testament is very useful for showing a person their sinfulness (I TIM. 1: 8-11). The issue is that what do you do from there? Using the law to show sinfulness and requiring people to adhere to the terms of the Old Covenant are two utterly different things. One edifies through godly sorrow, the other condemns. Know you are a sinner in need of a Savior! But know that Savior is Jesus.

But you don't seem to be asking that. You are asking me if it is always wrong or can it be beneficial. So, right off the bat I warned you that it can very much go very wrong. Jesus must be central. The law is a path to fear and pride. You must not let it set you up on a pedestal, nor let it tear others down. But if you can manage these things, then we believe there is nothing inherently wrong in keeping a law.

Hope that helps!