Monday, October 25, 2010

Law of Moses - Law of God

It would appear that a post that specifically addresses the Law of Moses is past due. And it looks like this is going to have to be a two-part post. Even in two parts, I cannot possibly discuss every nuance of this subject. What I will have to do is narrow my focus. There are a lot of options for phrases that we could look at in this study. Believe me, you don't want me to do that here. This would be a 15-part series in no time just from listing the verses where certain phrases exist. For the sake of time and space, we've picked the two most controversial: "Law of God", and "Law of Moses".

Even though he didn't come up with the idea, Herbert Armstrong taught that the "Law of Moses" only included the sections of the Old Covenant law that were, in his words, "ceremonial, ritualistic, or sacrificial laws" (eg. animal sacrifice, cleanliness rituals). He taught that these were removed at Christ's death. ["Nailed to the cross," so to speak.] He also taught that a cherry-picked list of "moral" portions of the Old Covenant law (eg. Ten Commandments, Holy Days, tithing, foods laws) fell under a completely different category which he called the "Law of God." To this very day, this is one of the most oft-repeated arguments for law-keeping in Armstrongism. It often appears somewhat like this, "Only the Law of Moses was removed. The Ten Commandments are the Law of God, and they were not removed." I want to investigate this and see if we can distinguish fact from fiction.

Were the "ceremonial" and "practical" sections of the law called the "Law of Moses"? Yes.
Were the "moral" sections of the law called the "Law of God"? Yes.
Both of these statements are completely, 100% true! That's not tongue-in-cheek. (ABD may be a polemics blog, but it isn't dedicated to claiming Herbert Armstrong was wrong in everything he did. We want the truth. We'll tell you when he's right! We just rarely find that happening is all.) These really are true statements!
However (you knew this was coming) the converse is also true:
Were the "ceremonial" and "practical" sections of the law called the "Law of God"? Yes.
Were the "moral" sections of the law called the "Law of Moses"? Yes.
Just to be circumspect, I should mention that it is also called, plainly, "the Law."

THE LAW OF GOD

The phrase "Law of God" only appears in the KJV Old Testament four times in two books (JOS. 24: 26; NEH. 8: 8, 18; 10: 28). That's it. If you expect it to appear in the New Testament more often, think again. In the KJV New Testament, the phrase "Law of God" only appears three times in one book (HEB. 7: 22, 25; 8: 7). That's a grand total of seven. Not what you expected, was it? If all of the "moral" law (which is supposedly still binding) falls under the Law of God, you would think this phrase would appear more often than just this.
Let's look at one of those verses:

(NEH 10: 28-29) 28 Now the rest of the people—the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Nethinim, and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, everyone who had knowledge and understanding— 29 these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes

God's Law was given by Moses? That's not supposed to be there. God's Law includes commands, ordinances, and statutes? That's odd. That's the same wording used for the Law of Moses (eg. I KIN. 2: 3; MAL. 4: 4). That's exactly what we were always told should not be there. But, that can only mean.... that the Law of God includes the entire law, and not just "moral law."

Someone might say, "But wait! It says 'Law of God' then lists commandments, ordinances and statutes separately!" Well, if "commandments" always refers to the Ten Commandments - over and over and over again this is the claim Adventists/Armstrongists make - then we can't quite have the Ten Commandments listed separately from the Law of God and still categorize them as the Law of God now can we? No, we cannot. So that argument is self-defeating.

Already this study should be finished. We've shown its most basic assumption to be false. But I sense more is needed to convince certain ones. Let's move ahead and look at more. Much more.

THE LAW OF MOSES

The phrase "Law of Moses" appears in the KJV Old Testament fifteen times across nine books (JOS. 8: 31, 32; 23: 6; JUD. 4: 11; I KIN. 2: 3; II KIN. 14: 6; 23: 25; II CHR. 23: 18; 30: 16; EZR. 3: 2; 7: 6; NEH. 8: 1; DAN. 9: 11, 13; MAL. 4: 4). In the KJV New Testament, the phrase "Law of Moses" appears seven times in four books (LUK. 2: 22; 24: 44; JON. 7: 23; ACT. 13: 39; 15: 5; 28: 23; I COR. 9: 9).

(ACT. 15: 5) But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

Those bothersome legalists "of the circumcision" said the Law of Moses was necessary for salvation (ACT. 15: 1). But the Law of Moses is not pleasing to God (at least where the Gentiles are concerned); it is something that tests God (ACT. 15: 10). It is not something the Apostles taught the Gentiles to observe (ACT. 15: 24; 21: 25). Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, they were shown to be unnecessary (ACT. 15: 28). And this is why Herbert Armstrong had to distance himself from it, and substitute "Law of God" in order to justify continued law-keeping. But just what do you mean, "Law of Moses"?
The Free Dictionary will tell us what the Law of Moses is:
Law of Moses
n
1. (Christian Religious Writings / Bible) the first five books of the Old Testament; Pentateuch
2. (Non-Christian Religions / Judaism) Judaism a law or body of laws derived from the Torah in accordance with interpretations (the Oral Law) traditionally believed to have been given to Moses on Mount Sinai together with the Written Law
Don't believe the dictionary, eh? I understand. What would they know about definitions of words and phrases anyway. Let's look in the Bible instead.
Joshua says a mouthful!

(JOSH. 8: 30-35) 30 Now Joshua built an altar to the LORD God of Israel in Mount Ebal, 31 as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law [torah] of Moses: “an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law [torah] of Moses, which he had written. 33 Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law [torah], the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law [torah]. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.

What is the Book of the Law which Joshua references? None other than the Torah. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. They are all referred to as the "Book of the Law" or the "Book of the Law of Moses". The Book of the Law is the Torah - the Pentateuch; the first five books of the Bible - and the Law of Moses is every law written therein, all 613 of them. Now, when Joshua read the Book of the Law of Moses, every word that Moses commanded, do you suppose that included the Ten Commandments? If he read every word, it had to! That must be hard to accept.
Joshua referenced Deuteronomy 27: 5-6 specifically. Even if someone doesn't accept that the Book of the Law of Moses is the first five books of the Bible, and the Law of Moses is every law in them, at the very least one must accept that this Book includes Deuteronomy, since Joshua quotes directly from there. Does Deuteronomy include the Ten Commandments? Of course it does! Deuteronomy chapters 4 and 5, especially 5, go over the Ten Commandments quite a bit. So, the Ten Commandments are in the Book of Law of Moses. (It's a book, after all, not the "Cherry-picked Collection of the Ceremonial-Law Only of Moses".) It would be difficult to explain that away.

Now, what do you suppose Joshua wrote on the stones of the alter in verse 32? Do you suppose it was the law concerning sacrifice? I'm guessing not. The ceremonial law of tassels and headgear? Probably not. It would most likely be what each of us naturally thinks it was - the Ten Commandments. And even if Joshua didn't have only the Ten Commandments chiseled or painted on the stones, perhaps it was the whole Law of Moses that was put there, that still includes the Ten Commandments.
Are we to believe that Joshua thought the ceremonial and practical portions of the law to be so important he would write them on stone near an altar at the entrance to Israel, but he would leave the Spiritual and supposedly "eternal" portions of the law off? Chew on that a bit.

So we've seen that the Law of God is all the law that was given through Moses, and now we've seen that the Law of Moses definitely includes the Ten Commandments. This confusion should be solved for you. Seriously, this should be a slam-dunk here. This teaching is busted.
But let's look at even more evidence.

CORROBORATIVE EVIDENCE

Still not ready to rethink your base assumptions? Still think "commandments" means Ten Commandments, and they aren't in the Law of Moses? What did David charge Solomon to do?

(I KIN. 2: 3) And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses...

It states the matter quite clearly right there - the commandments are in the Law of Moses. That's straight from David's mouth. Do you still insist that "commandments" can only mean "Ten Commandments"? Then you've dug a hole for yourself.
Let me ask you something. Do you know the three divisions of the Old Testament writings? Jesus knew them:

(LUK. 24: 44) 44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

Jesus has referenced the three divisions of the Old Testament: the law [torah], the prophets, and the psalms [writings]. This is another way of saying "the whole thing." Only, instead of saying "Law [Torah] of Moses," as we would find in the Old Testament Hebrew, Jesus said "Law [Nomos] of Moses" in New Testament Greek. So, according to the Author, the Torah is the Law of Moses.
Practically the same thing happens in Acts 28: 23.

(ACT. 28: 23b) ...persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.

These aren't some made-up divisions like when Herbert Armstrong invented "physical sin" versus "spiritual sin." These are real divisions which Jesus Himself endorses. The Law of Moses is the first five books of the Bible.
The Ten Commandments are laws, are they not? Of course they are. Well, through whom did the law come?

(JON. 1: 17a) For the law was given through Moses...

Interesting, no? Any exceptions listed there? Any qualifications? No. It just says "law." All of it was given through Moses. Moses was the mediator of that Covenant, after all. Let's see what the rest of this verse says:

(JON. 1: 17b) ...but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

This isn't a verse we went over in Armstrongism very often. The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. I find that to be very interesting indeed.

I think we can safely put this idea to rest that "The Ten Commandments are not the Law of Moses," as well as its follow-up claim, "therefore they are still in effect." The Ten Commandments are included in the Law of Moses. Does that mean they are not the Law of God? No. They were also referred to as the Law of God. "Law of God" and "Law of Moses" are just labels. They are both the same thing. It was all given by God through Moses. There are many verses that we could point to to prove this out.

Next time we're going to look at one selection in particular that I think is really going to drive this point home.
You can find the next post in this series here.

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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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Friday, October 22, 2010

Beware Evangelists Bearing Gifts

I have to get this off my chest. I have a pet peeve, and I find this thing so utterly annoying that I simply could not resist the temptation to use this blog as a personal soap box on this topic.

I have seen many religious television programs, listened to many religious radio programs, or religious audio programs over the Internet... or what media have you. I have heard evangelists over the years a plenty. One thing that sets one evangelist apart from another in my mind is how they ask for donations.

Now, I readily admit that after decades of intense fleecing at the hands of the old Worldwide Church of God and its offshoots, I am very, very, very sensitive to any request for money of any kind. More sensitive than I should be. The first time I visited a United Methodist church, they told me my money belongs to God and I have to give it to Him and then they passed the plate. That offended my admittedly heightened sensibilities toward that sort of thing, and I never went back.
Hey, everything belongs to God. Do I have to give Him some of my liver, or one of my kids, or my exhaust manifold from my car, or perhaps one of my windows from my house? Those are His, too! How foolish is it, then, to tell me that my money belongs to God and I should give some of that to Him? Why is it always the money?
And how is it that my money is God's, and it needs to go to Him, but it actually goes to some preacher. Is he God? No. Then how did my money make its way to God again? If it's God's, and He wants it, I should rather burn it as an offering. Wouldn't you think?

OK! OK. Ok... churches need money. I get it!
Any organization needs income or it becomes incredibly difficult to have any outflow of any kind. I understand that churches rely on donations. Come on! I told you I was overly sensitive! In my defense, no one can deny that this is grossly abused all too often! But I understand that generosity is mandatory. I'm not speaking against giving. I want people to give. Give to your church. Give to organizations that you benefit from. Give to worthy causes. All I really want to speak against is the distorted sales pitch.

Here is my pet peeve.
My pet peeve specifically is when evangelists ask for donations and then say, "For your generosity, we are going to send you this gift." Or, "This wonderful thing will be in the mail to you as my way of saying 'thank you'."
Say what??

Why is it that when places need charity, they all seem to offer "gifts" for your generosity? If they ask for money, then give something back that costs money, doesn't that kinda, you know, defeat the purpose?

I'm going to explain this simply and directly. The free gift for your generosity is not a free gift for your generosity. They're not really saying "thank you for your generosity." What's really happening is you're buying a book, or a calendar, or a trinket, or whatever. They can't outrightly "sell" you the thing, or they'd have to charge tax. Never the less, they're selling you a thing at a profit, and they keep the difference.

When I go to the book store, I buy a book. I don't donate to the book store, and they don't give me a book as their way of saying "thank you." I buy a book. The book costs money. I hand them slightly money more money than they bought the book for, they hand me a book and they keep the difference. It's rather thankless, but I want a book and they need money. It's in both of our interest. We both benefit.
Or how about this example...
When I go to a bake sale fund raiser, I don't give someone money and receive an apple pie and 4 gooey double-chocolate brownies as their way of saying "thank you" for my generosity. They tell it like it is. The church needs money, and they're going to sell me baked goods at a profit to raise that money.
It's the exact same thing!

Then why do some evangelists choose to try to put a spin on it? For pity's sake just tell me like it is!
Just say, "Look, this ministry needs money to continue offering what we do. Please send in a cash gift if you want to continue receiving the benefits of this ministry, or if you prefer, I wrote a book and I'll sell it to you at a fair price."
Something like that. Why is that so hard?
Spare me the "free gift for your generosity" spiel.

If it really was a free gift for my generosity, they would send it to me at a time when I'm not donating money. It's a free "thank you" gift, right? Why not send it to me randomly? Why do they only give me this free "thank you" gift when I first give them money? Answer: it's not a free thank you gift. I buy the gift for an inflated price, and they keep the difference. Just like at the store. Just like at the bake sale.
And it annoys me no end when people put that spin on it to make us think that's not precisely what's going on!

Sorry. I just had to get that out of my system.

As a parting thought, I want to point out that ABD really is free. We have never sold anything and we have never asked you for anything. Well, perhaps we ask you for prayers... or maybe an email. I mean to say that we don't ask you to send anything of value here to us, and we aren't going to send you anything to guilt you into sending us more. That's how HWA roped a lot of people in.
There is no obligation. No plate is passed. No free gifts as our way of saying "thanks." Just high-quality polemics at no charge or obligation to you.
What do we want from you? We want you to prayerfully enter the New Covenant. If you're already there, we want you to take what we offer and use it in your conversations with others. Help them to enter the New Covenant. Perhaps you can say, we want you to "pay it forward."

By the grace and generosity of God, we donate our time and effort (which belong to Him) to you! See how a real free gift works?
To our thousands of visotors from 74 countries or territories on 5 continents across the globe... thank you for reading our blog!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nailed To The Cross

In this post I would like to go over Colossians 2. Let's see what Armstrongism says was nailed to the cross, and let's see if that stands up to scrutiny.

Certain doctrines which Armstrongists defend vehemently as "true" depend heavily on a particular interpretation of specific verses. These verses were commonly referred to as "difficult scriptures" because they clearly said the opposite of what Herbert Armstrong taught and therefore they were difficult to understand without a heavy amount of "explanation." This week I have randomly chosen an article from one of the larger Armstrongist splinter groups that demonstrates fairly typical Armstrongists views on Colossians 2, and I will subject it to the As Bereans Did patented deep-inspection treatment. Shall we?

THE CLAIM

The first sentence sums up their claims.
"In their struggle to find a New Testament scripture that supports their misconception that God's law is "done away," antinomians point to Colossians 2:14 to "prove" that Christ nailed the law of God to the cross."
-Earl Henn, Bibletools.org (Church of the Great God) Topical Studies, "Nailed to the Cross"
In our struggle, he says. My struggle is understanding why I let authors like the one above influence me for so many years.
Antinomian? It is not likely the author is specifically referring to antinomians (people who believe there is no law in the New Covenant at all). No doubt he is referring to anyone who doesn't think as he does about the law. However, his ad hominem does not describe what most Christians believe (I JON. 3: 23). The "law-loving" author should be cautious not to break the law by bearing false witness.

Setting my petty squabble about his choice of words aside, the claim is that Jesus did not nail the law to the cross, but rather some other thing was nailed to the cross. What thing, then? We will see that this is "debt" or in other words "the penalty of the law". But does that hold up under scrutiny?

HANDWRITING AND ORDINANCES

Let us continue on and see if this person can stand up to their own claims.
"The phrase "handwriting of requirements" is translated from the Greek phrase cheirographon tois dogmasin. Cheirographon means anything written by hand, but can more specifically apply to a legal document, bond, or note of debt. Dogmasin refers to decrees, laws, or ordinances, and in this context means a body of beliefs or practices that have become the guidelines governing a person's conduct or way of life. What Paul is saying is that, by His death, Christ has justified us—brought us into alignment with His Law—and wiped out the note of guilt or debt that we owed as a result of our sins."
-Earl Henn, Bibletools.org (Church of the Great God) Topical Studies, "Nailed to the Cross"
Do you notice how, when the author puts the definitions of the Greek phrase into his own words, his summary doesn't really match the definition of the Greek words? Cheirographon means anything written and dogmasin means laws, but Jesus nailed guilt to the cross? I don't see the Greek word for guilt (aitia) in there anywhere.
I promise you that we will see the author's attempt to explain himself in just a bit, but I wanted to point this out before we get there.

So, ordinances means "the guidelines governing a person's conduct"? Christ nailed the "the guidelines governing a person's conduct" to the cross?? And this is supposed to convince us that the law was not nailed to the cross?
I can tell you because I spent decades as an Armstrongist that "the guidelines governing a person's conduct" is an exact definition for law as Armstrongism sees it.

Let's check his work and verify the definitions of handwriting and ordinances:

Handwriting
Strong's G5498 - "cheirographon"
Neuter of a compound of G5495 and G1125; something hand written (“chirograph”), that is, a manuscript (specifically a legal document or bond (figuratively)): - handwriting.
Thayer Definition:
1) a handwriting, what one has written by his own hand
2) a note of hand or writing in which one acknowledges that money has either been deposited with him or lent to him by another, to be returned at the appointed time

Total KJV Occurrences: 1 (COL. 2: 14).

Ordinances
Strong's G1378 - "dogma"
From the base of G1380; a law (civil, ceremonial or ecclesiastical): - decree, ordinance.
Thayer Definition:
1) doctrine, decree, ordinance
1a) of public decrees
1b) of the Roman Senate
1c) of rulers
2) the rules and requirements of the law of Moses; carrying a suggestion of severity and of threatened judgment
3) of certain decrees of the apostles relative to right living

Total KJV Occurrences: 5
decrees, 2
(ACT. 16:4, ACT. 17:7)
ordinances, 2
(EPH. 2:15, COL. 2:14)
decree, 1
(LUK. 2:1)

It says right there, "law of Moses." So the Greek phrase cheirographon tois dogmasin absolutely can mean "written law of Moses". And if "the guidelines governing a person's conduct" is how Armstrongism sees the law, maybe you see clearly why the verbal acrobatics are needed.

DEBT OR LAW

Let's dig a little deeper now.

The word "handwriting" can mean anything written, but specifically refers to a legal document, and can figuratively mean a note of deposit or debt. Does it refer to a law or does it refer to a note of debt? We would have to make that determination by context

Verses 11 through 17 are one continuous idea. Since they clearly speak of the law, then law is IMHO the better choice for the handwriting than debt.
Now, to be fair, I will grant that it could mean both debt and law. However, in practice, I cannot see how it can be only debt and not law.

The law incurs debt (GAL. 5: 1-4). I freely grant that Jesus did indeed pay that debt. Legalists argue this so stringently because they want desperately to believe that, "He paid the debt, but He didn't touch the law." But to say it has to be debt but cannot be law doesn't fit the facts. Especially since Galatians 5: 1-4 shows that legalism incurs debt and removes grace. If there is law, then there is the means of incurring more debt.

Think about this with me now.
This one glorious act by Jesus disarmed His enemies (v. 15). Once and for all time. So to say that He triumphed in paying the debt, but He left the means of incurring more debt - the very weapon of the enemy against us - seems to me quite irrational. Would that not be a very short-lived triumph if only days after the debt was paid, more debt was incurred?

So, I hope you can agree with me that it could be law and debt, but not debt alone.

PAY NO ATTENTION

"Handwriting of ordinances" is a phrase. Legalists want to focus your attention on "handwriting" and tell you all about how cheirographon means a note of debt, and they'll cry a river about how I am wrong and how I don't understand .. because I tell you about the rest of the phrase. But they are splitting up the phrase, which is never proper.

The phrase is "cheirographon dogma" -- "handwriting of ordinances". We cannot split this phrase up and hide away half of it. What does Paul say the handwriting was? Ordinances! Look at Ephesians 2: 15, the same word "ordinances" [dogma] is used there, and in the exact same way:

(EPH. 2: 15) having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace

We saw how the word "ordinances" refers to a legal decree, and can specifically refer to the Law of Moses. The very first definition of the word is "law," precisely what our generous author would have us believe it is not. So we are to believe that Paul, under inspiration from God, chose a phrase which in every way indicates law but that is exactly what it does not mean? What's it supposed to mean then? Sin? Funny, I don't see anything in there to indicate that. Just like the Greek word for debt isn't in there, the Greek word for sin isn't in there either.

I want to emphasize something very critical now. Please pay close attention here.
The author would have you believe 'debt' was nailed to the cross but not the law. Ephesians 2: 15 tells us, whatever was abolished, that act united Jew and Gentile. I ask you, was 'debt' the thing that separated Jew from Gentile? The answer is no. The law separated Jew from Gentile. Now, if debt alone is removed, can it make one new man from the two? The answer is no. If we remove the debt, but not the law, then the legal separation remains; the two are not made one at all. However, if the debt and the law are removed, then a new man can be made from the two, and peace is made. Therefore, removing debt alone cannot satisfy the whole verse.

The author would have us focus so closely on ways to define "choreographon" that we pay no attention to what the point of the abolishing even was. That point was unity!

This author is making this verse say something that it doesn't say so that you can get something from it that isn't there. Why the intentional misleading? Why the incredibly fast and loose interpretation of the words? If it's so plain and so true, why do we have to mangle it first and rearrange it and redefine words before we can get the "plain truth" from it?

SEINEN KAMPF

Ready for even more wrangling?
"The last sentence in verse 14 reads: 'And He has taken it out of the way...' In this sentence, the word 'it' is a singular pronoun and refers back to the singular word 'handwriting.' 'Requirements' could not be its antecedent because 'requirements' is plural."
-Earl Henn, Bibletools.org (Church of the Great God) Topical Studies, "Nailed to the Cross"
Technically speaking, what he says here is correct. "It" does refer to "handwriting." Unfortunately, it isn't that simple. I'll try to explain why.

His claim is that "it" does not refer to "ordinances" but only to "handwriting". To put it another way, he is trying to put distance between the act of nailing something to the cross and the word ordinances because ordinances can mean law. He is trying to say that only the handwriting was nailed, and by doing this he hopes to prevent any chance of law being nailed to the cross.
The author believes ordinances means debt, while most of Christianity believes it to mean Old Covenant law, but if ordinances isn't nailed, then neither law nor debt are nailed. It defeats itself.

Perhaps this man hasn't thought through what he's saying. Let me break this down further for you to make it easier to spot why it can't work this way

The author says that "it" refers to handwriting. We must ask, what is "handwriting" then?
Is "handwriting" a piece of paper only, or does it also include the list of things written upon it? Yes, it includes what was written! So what is handwriting? It is the ordinances!

It's a phrase. You can't just separate it like he's doing. It's a whole unit. What sense would it make to refer to a paper only apart from what was written on that paper, or to written-words only apart from the paper they were written upon? So claiming that "it" can only refer to "handwriting" (the paper) but not "ordinances" (what was written on the paper) makes no sense, does it? No, it doesn't.

So "it" does indeed refer to the handwriting, as I said earlier. But "it" must by necessity also refer to ordinances, contrary to what the author claims.

Thus far, he has had to wrangle and contort, redefine and redirect, contradict and reason into a hole in order to make a point that it can't be law. Yet after all this needless distraction and complication we have achieved nothing, and find ourselves right back at our first problem: "ordinances" is either "laws" (if we go with the definition of the words and the context of the chapter) or it is "debt" (if we go with this guy's interpretation).
I suggest you check the Categories Page or the FAQ for more evidence that it really does mean law.

Who is the one struggling again?

INVENTING BACKSTORY

Here is where we completely blow all context out the window. A story will be woven about the Ascetic community in Corinth.
"Because the converted Colossians were learning how to enjoy life as God intended, the people in the ascetic community began to look down on them and condemn them."
-Earl Henn, Bibletools.org (Church of the Great God) Topical Studies, "Nailed to the Cross"
Really? Proof, please! I don't see that coming from Paul.

Were there ascetics in Collosae at that time? Yes! We can see in verse 21 that there certainly was a presence of this type of philosophy in the area. Colossae was on an important trade route from Ephasus on the Mediterranean Sea to the the Middle East. I am not doinbting the presence of philosophers. This is about something else entirely.

I want you to be made aware of what is going on here.
What the author is about to do is a time-honored trick within Adventism/Armstrongism. He is going to redirect the entire setting, and replace it with a different reality. If Paul isn't talking about law, then he has to be talking about something, and this is his attempt to explain what that is. He is about to weave you a tale about how Paul was warning the Christians - not against falling from grace by turning to law and the debt that comes from this - but against the scorn of the philosophers in the region. He wants you to believe that Paul was concerned with the Christian converts being teased by their old friends for their unusual practices.

This particular author has chosen the Ascetics as his antagonists. Does the author offer anything at all to back up his claim? No. Nothing. Not even a reference to a trusted third party's writings. If you ask other Armstrongists however, some will tell us that it wasn't the ascetics but the stoics. Again, proof please!
"Paul explains in verse 16 why they need not be bothered by the attitude of the Colossian society toward their practices and way of life in the church. To paraphrase, 'Do not worry about what the people in the community think about your enjoyment of eating good food, drinking wine, and joyously celebrating the Sabbath and the festivals. Christ has conquered the world and all of its rulers, so we do not need to be concerned about what the world thinks about us.'"
-Earl Henn, Bibletools.org (Church of the Great God) Topical Studies, "Nailed to the Cross"
To listen to the author one would get the impression that ascetics (or stoics, or whatever the story du jour is) were a terrible problem for these fun-loving Christians in Colossae. One would think Colossae was virtually populated entirely with ill-tempered ascetics.
Christianity was considered a superstition and a threat to the unity of the empire. Within a few short years their very lives would be in danger for His name's sake. One would think Rome was virtually populated entirely with ill-tempered Romans.
Given that, what sense would it make that Paul should care about a little teasing from the philosophers? It's fine advice and everything. I'm not saying that Paul wanted us to worry about what other people think of our Christianity. But given the totality of the evidence and context, is this really the best explanation? Is Colossians speaking of ascetics and teasing? I don't think it is.

The Greeks didn't need Christians to eat and drink or have peculiar practices in order to look down on them. The Christian philosophy is what they disliked. The very nature of the cross of Christ was the issue.

(I COR. 1: 23) but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness

Paul mentions "food and drink" in verse 16. In the author's mind, if this verse isn't about the Colossians being judged by those "of the circumcision" for disregarding kosher rules and Sabbaths and holy days, then it must be about ascetics teasing them for eating and drinking, keeping kosher and observing certain days.
I'll admit the reasoning is logical. If we can't take Paul at face value, then something must explain it. Problem is the premise is barely supportable.

So, if the author is wrong, then what is Paul talking about?
Paul's warnings aren't about being teased by ascetics, but rather the dangers of letting anyone "deceive you with persuasive words" (v. 4). So Paul is not talking about teasing here, but deception! And Paul is not talking about ascetics here, but legalists!

There is a warning against vain philosophy. There is also a warning against paganism. However let us never forget there is a warning against the teachings of the group Paul calls "the circumcision" who are the converted Jews who went around relentlessly pestering Paul and testing God by preaching a false gospel of circumcision and law-keeping. It is clear that verses 11 through 17 are referring to these ones in particular.

This isn't some light thing the author is doing.
He, being closely related to "the circumcision", wants you to forget all about that and concentrate on some other group. Just like he wanted you to forget all about ordinances meaning law of Moses so he gave that a new definition.
He wants you to forget that the circumcision went around teaching what the author teaches. He doesn't want you to think Paul could be talking about him, so he tells you Paul is talking about someone else - someone Paul doesn't even specifically mention.
The author is clearly attempting to "deceive you with persuasive words."

The implications aren't small. This is something we need to tread very carefully with, and the author is playing fast and loose with it.

Do you want a better understanding on what Paul is saying here? Then read Romans 14. Colossians 11: 17-22 and Romans 14 go together like chocolate and peanut butter. They are perfect compliments.

What Paul is saying here in Colossians 2 has nothing to do with Greek philosophers teasing people for observing the Sabbath and drinking wine. It is about not turning from the Gospel of grace to the false pride and frustrated failure of legalism... or anything else for that matter.
One more thing... Armstrongists will tell you that Romans 14 is speaking about philosophers, too. I just thought I should mention that. *sigh*

SHADOW AND SUBSTANCE

Now get this:
"In verse 17, Paul mentions that the Sabbath and holy days are "shadows," symbols or types, of future events in the plan of God. The Sabbath is a type of the Millennium when Jesus Christ and the saints will rule the world for a thousand years. The holy days symbolize various steps in the plan of God and remind us annually of God's great purpose in creating mankind."
-Earl Henn, Bibletools.org (Church of the Great God) Topical Studies, "Nailed to the Cross"
Earlier the author was getting out Strong's Concordance and trying to wrangle over definitions and plurality. Well, this time there's no word study. The author simply asserts that shadow means "to foreshadow."

Strong's G4639 - "skia"
Apparently a primary word; “shade” or a shadow (literally or figuratively [darkness of error or an adumbration]): - shadow.
Thayer Definition:
1) shadow
1a) shade caused by the interception of light
1b) an image cast by an object and representing the form of that object
1c) a sketch, outline, adumbration
Part of Speech: noun feminine

Total KJV Occurrences: 7
shadow, 7
MAT. 4:16, MAR. 4:32, LUK. 1:79, ACT. 5:15, COL. 2:17, HEB. 8:5, HEB. 10:1

Interesting fact: "skia" (shadow) is never synonymous with "foreshadow" in the New Testament. An important detail to know, wouldn't you say?
The law didn't foreshadow Christ. It is a shadow of Christ. The law was given 1,400 years before Christ. At the time it was given the Christ was "to come." But the law didn't foreshadow Him; it was a shadow He cast. The Message translation nails it: "All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ."

(HEB. 8: 5a) [the temple priests] who serve the copy and shadow [skia] of the heavenly things
(HEB. 10: 1a) For the law, having a shadow [skia] of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things

Foreshadow is simply not a valid translation (maybe that's why it's not translated this way). What's more, the author makes the claim that the weekly Sabbath foreshadows the Millennium, and the Holy Days foreshadow the "various steps in the plan of God" which any Armstrongist will call "the 7,000-year plan." What does this verse say? "But the substance is of Christ" (v. 17). Not the Millennium. Christ!

The Old Covenant pointed a rebellious people in the direction of His righteousness until the fullness of time came for our Savior's first coming. When He came, the fullness of the Godhead came. We no longer need the shadow when we have such unspeakable fullness!

To round this out, what do some commentaries say? I love how Barnes Notes puts it, "All that they [the law] signified is of or in Christ." Adam Clarke's commentary says this, "The word shadow is often used to express any thing imperfect or unsubstantial; while the term body was used in the opposite sense, and expressed any thing substantial, solid, and firm." So, in this detail we see something interesting - the fullness is not "the body of Christ," in other words His church. No. The fullness is Christ. "Body" does not refer to the church. The body (substance) casts the shadow. This is a completely separate metaphor than saying, "we are the body of Christ." Don't get me wrong; we are the body of Christ. But this verse uses "body" in a different sense. Christ is being directly referred to here.

Back in 1997, David Albert wrote a book titled "Difficult Scriptures" that dives deep into most of these topics in a manner that is very easy for anyone from an Armstrongist background to understand. Did the author know about this book? I don't know. I doubt it. If he did, I would sadly report that he ignored everything and barreled ahead with something demonstrably incorrect. Once again, this is not the kind of "authority" I would trust my salvation with.

RIGHT JUDGMENT

Let's move on to one final bit of oddness in this study. Referencing verse 16, the author says this:
"Paul tells the Colossians that they should not let any man judge them or call them into question about these things but rather let the church make those judgments."
-Earl Henn, Bibletools.org (Church of the Great God) Topical Studies, "Nailed to the Cross"
Paul says that? In which Bible?
Paul says "let no man judge you," not "let the church judge you rather than philosophers." How can this person possibly justify his interpretation which is clearly - once again - in violation of what Paul said?

The author's view, once again, doesn't make any sense. How is someone who is not a Christian supposed to judge a Christian where doctrine is concerned? They can't! Jesus alone is our judge. You cannot hope to stop them from teasing you; a dying Savior is foolishness to them. It's absurd to claim that this is what Paul is referring to.

What on earth happened to letting the Bible interpret the Bible? Why can't people just let this chapter just say what it says? Why does the author tell us what we plainly read here is wrong and a "struggle" when obviously he must contort every detail, ignore plain verses, creatively redefine words, and invent a whole back-story in order to make it say what he says it should?

In my view, basically, this is ideological prejudice. They would rather rewrite the Bible than consider their fundamental assumptions may be wrong. (One Armstrongist minister, Fred Coulter, literally did rewrite portions of the Bible. Of course he says he was merely, "restoring God's truth.")
I am willing to consider that the author is right. In fact I lived it for decades. But when I finally considered that I might be wrong in that, and just let the Bible say what it says, I stopped thinking the author's argument are all that convincing.

CONCLUSION

What can we conclude? We can conclude that the Holy Spirit guided Paul to write what he wrote, and that is all God intended to be there. No wrangling necessary. We can conclude that the Ten Commandments formed the foundation of the Old Covenant that Old Covenant was abolished at Christ's death, and the letter of the old law no longer applies even while the Spirit of the law remains. We can conclude that Jesus saves us by His grace and we do not need to observe food laws and days and months and seasons in order to follow Him. And we do not need to listen to anyone who says we are condemned unless we do these superficial, physical things. Christ alone is our judge, and He resides in us by faith.

Given the weight of the evidence here and throughout the New Testament, it becomes compelling that the Old Covenant law was indeed nailed to the cross and taken away - along with the record of our sins. Debt and law were both nailed. It had to all be taken away because it was all against us. Jesus, however, instituted the fullness of the law. He removed the letter of the law so the Spirit of the law could shine through clearly. And what does He command?

(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.

They preach a fraction of the Old Covenant law; a cherry-picked subset. We preach "Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote— Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (JON. 1: 45b).

(ISA. 45: 21-25) 21 Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. 22 “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.
24 He shall say, ‘Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, and all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him. 25 In the LORD all the descendants of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory.’”


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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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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Key To Understanding Why Armstrongism is a False Gospel

I'm not doing any writing this week. Don't need to! I'm just going to relax and point to a fine series of posts from J at "Shadows of WCG Next Generation" that work together perfectly with what I've been writing about here for weeks. (And, no, we didn't collaborate together at all, before during or after, if anyone was wondering.) J deserves to be commended for a clearly inspired body of work. I am honored to run this race alongside him.
Read up!
And, hey... pass me some nachos, will ya? I don't feel like reaching for them myself.

"The Key To Understanding Why Armstrongism is a False Gospel: PART ONE"

"The Key To Understanding Why Armstrongism is a False Gospel: PART TWO"

"The Key To Understanding Why Armstrongism is a False Gospel: PART THREE"

"The Key To Understanding Why Armstrongism is a False Gospel: PART FOUR"

"The Key To Understanding Why Armstrongism is a False Gospel: PART FIVE"

"The Key To Understanding Why Armstrongism is a False Gospel: PART SIX"

"The Key To Understanding Why Armstrongism is a False Gospel: PART SEVEN"

That's it. Seven parts. Read through them and enjoy.
God bless!

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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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Does The New Testament Teach About Law and Grace?

In my last post, I went over the idea that "When we are repentant we are then baptised, have hands laid on us, and the Holy Spirit is granted to us from the Father." I focused on how sin and repentance and law relate, and how faith is de-emphasized in Armstrongism. What I'm attempting to do in this series of posts is talk about the actual way things were in practice. I'm cutting through all of the double talk from the sermons and literature, and I'm trying to get to how it really is to be a practicing Armstrongist.
This time I would like to move forward and hit on forgiveness and grace from the Armstrongist perspective.


"At this point in time all our sins past are forgiving us, we are now covered by grace so that when we do sin we are forgiven."

As in the last post, taken alone this statement is pretty much spot on. When we accept Jesus, we are forgiven and we are covered by His undeserved grace. Once again we see how similar that this quote is to mainstream Christian understanding. Forgiveness is forgiveness. Grace is grace. Everyone seems to agree. Once again, however, what was left unsaid is the important part.

NOT AS IT SEEMS

It's not just that forgiveness is followed by grace. No no! What is left unsaid is that forgiveness only enters in at all if we take up law-keeping, and grace only follows forgiveness at all if the law continues to be kept. It's all conditional! Problem is, if there is a prerequisite or a quid pro quo, then by definition it cannot be a free gift!

But what's even more than that is, if this is true, then the rest of the world is unforgiven, and without grace. The point of this series of articles is to compare and contrast what is said from what is actually practiced, so if what I just said is confusing then I ask you to bear with me here, but please think about it. If forgiveness only enters in after one takes up law-keeping, then the law-keepers are the only ones meriting forgiveness. Therefore they must be the "one true church." But if the law-keepers are the "one true church" then all others are unavoidably "false churches". Therefore, if grace is conditional upon law-keeping, and the rest of the world does not keep the law, then the rest of the world is without grace.
A frightening thing to be left unsaid, no? But these sorts of things are said in Armstrongist circles all the time. In fact I mean to quote such a thing here in a short while.
  But for now let's push ahead.

QUALIFIED?
"Having endured and overcome means that one has 'qualified.' It also means that one can disqualify himself by failing to endure or overcome."
-The Restored Church of God, "What Does The New Testament Teach About Law and Grace?"
This is the flimsy grace. You get it only if you keep the law, and you keep it only if you keep the law. Do you see how what is left unsaid is more important than what is said?

But what if we find the law isn't kept in the first place? All of this over a cherry-picked subset of the law which isn't being kept.

In the last post we saw plainly (and it has been pointed out several times here on ABD) how Armstrongism doesn't meet its own standard for repentance. How did any of us "qualify" then?
We set a condition; we didn't meet our condition. Ergo, by our own standard, none of us should have been forgiven.
Herbert Armstrong never for one minute of his life taught the whole law. And to reiterate, I'm not referring to all 613 laws of the Torah. HWA never taught, and therefore none of us ever kept, the whole law regarding Sabbath observance, nor Holy Day observance, nor tithing, or meats, nor any of the things that we said were mandatory for continuing forgiveness and grace. How then did we "qualify"? There is not one area of the "mandatory" law where Armstrongists are keeping the whole law pertaining to that area. Not one. Yet these are precisely the laws that Armstrongism teaches must be observed or there is neither forgiveness nor ongoing grace.
How then did any of us "qualify"? What were we supposed to overcome? Our failure to keep the law? None of us ever did! How then did we "qualify"?

FOCUS ON YOURSELF

Were we to become more "righteous" from our partial law-keeping?
Righteousness is not of the law (ROM. 3: 21; 4: 13; 10: 4; GAL. 2: 21; PHP. 3: 9), so how was that even factor in? "For if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain" (GAL. 2: 21b). So, not only did we not meet our own standard of "qualification" we had the entire qualifying standard wrong anyway!
The standard is faith in Christ, not law (GAL. 3: 24). But we pushed faith out, and made Christ's death in vain. If we would only have sought to be led by the Holy Spirit by faith, trusting that God will do what God says He will do, then we would have achieved what we sought so desperately (GAL. 5: 16-25). "But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (v. 18). Notice, the phrase "penalty of the law" does not come from the Bible.

Try to understand - you can read all sorts and forms of things on various splinter groups' websites (even though the whole truth was supposedly delivered to Herbert Armstrong by God Himself over 70 years ago). Some splinter groups try to be more "liberal" than other blatantly fundamentalist splinter groups (and I applaud this). One group might not appear to fit what I'm describing as well as another. But the system always ends up in the same predicament.
Oh, they'll talk up forgiveness and grace like an Evangelical! In theory the doctrine might sound interesting, even acceptable, but it's in the practical application where it falls short. Setting conditions based upon our own law-keeping efforts throws a wrench into the entire works. The entire Old Covenant was created to prove this. It just seems that some never got the point.

JUDGMENT AND CONDEMNATION RESULT

If it were just that the Churches of God decided to keep the weekly Sabbath, that would be one thing. There is freedom in Christ!
It's that law-keeping is then made mandatory for all people, in direct contradiction to the decision of the Holy Spirit in Acts 15, and such an overwhelming premium is placed on law-keeping to the point of making themselves the "one true church" over it. And that inevitably leads to a hefty amount of condemnation for all who do not follow the same doctrine.

In the vilest and most misleading terms all else are condemned. These are massive problems. Here are a few words I have heard the ministry use regarding those who disagree with them: deceived, demonic, treacherous, pagan, worldly, lascivious, idolatrous, Great Whore, prostitute, Satanic, etc. This attitude inevitable trickles down into the congregation.

Grace conditional upon law-keeping might be bad enough, but it's not just over law-keeping. Other conditions need to be met as well.
The "true church" needs the right name. The "true church" needs the right leaders. The "true church" needs so many other conditions that it goes way beyond law.
Why? Simple. If it were just the 10 Commandments, then all of the Adventist groups, the Messianic Jews, and even the Seventh Day Baptists would be saved (among others). There must be condemnation for them as well because there is only room for one "one true church." So we see politics also factors in. But thanks in large part to Alexander Hyslop, the greatest condemnation is reserved for the Catholics and Protestants.
If just anyone can accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior by faith, and by faith believe and be baptized, and by faith fall under grace and have their sins forgiven, and by faith be led by the Holy Spirit into a life of good works and purification from dead works, then there is nothing to set Armstrong's doctrine above any other. (And nothing to set his coffers above any other. $$)

Here is a quote to make an example of the condemnation:
"The meaning of grace in the New Testament has nothing to do with abolishing God’s laws [grace has nothing to do with the Old covenant law, period]. False teachers [accusation number 1] who promote 'grace' over obedience are unaware [in other words, ignorant because God is not with them] that the New Testament was written for those whom God calls to assume roles of great responsibility in His kingdom [in other words, people who do not keep the law will not be in God's Kingdom]. These false teachers [accusation number 2] misunderstand because God has neither opened their minds nor given them His Holy Spirit [God is not with those who don't keep the law], which is necessary to comprehend His truth."
-The Restored Church of God, "What Does The New Testament Teach About Law and Grace?"
...Except they're not keeping the law either. So what does that say?

Now let's notice something.
According to that article, it is a "false teacher" who promotes grace over obedience. "Obedience" is another term for law-keeping. So, we are to believe that it is a "true teacher" who promotes our own efforts at law-keeping over God's own grace? That's exactly what we are supposed to believe (but not say plainly)!

How can such a claim be made while not meeting that standard? Do you see how plainly Romans 2: 1 applies here: "Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things"?

HWA attempted to tell the world that a system, which in all reality leads to self-condemnation, is the "one true church." Armstrongism condemns the rest of the world for what it is also doing. But ABD is, to borrow a phrase, the "no spin zone" and the spin is stopping right here. We at ABD agree with the Apostle Paul that this sort of thing is "inexcusable." And we at ABD agree with the New Covenant that, no, forgiveness is not handed out by God as a reward for our effort, and no, grace is not ongoing because of our efforts at law-keeping.

FEE GRACE

Now here's the real kicker, and in my view this stems from the unspoken perspective on grace -

All Armstrongists will admit that they are sinners, but then they will excuse themselves and say they were forgiven. (So far so good.) Forgiven for what, though? For not keeping the same law that the rest of the world doesn't keep? Or for the intermittent times when they do keep the portion of the law taught by Armstrongism? No.
"We are forgiven," we would claim, "because at least we TRY to keep the law!" And there we have it, don't we? Grace is earned. It all comes back to our own efforts. And, to be completely honest, this whole system is only one small step away from the idea of indulgences. How far can it be from doing works to earn grace now, and doing works to earn grace later? Not far, I'd say.

The proof is in the pudding, as it were. There is a quid pro quo. Grace is earned under this system, regardless of all the talk about grace being a free gift.

What happens when we request that anyone outside of Armstrongism - faithful people who follow Jesus as best as they know how - be afforded the same forgiveness for the same set of sins? We are all sinners after all.
This is also where the words "repent" (into law-keeping) and "overcome" (to better law-keeping) become the crux of the matter, and we see why our effort has replaced faith.

You see, in Armstrongism it is the repentant that will be forgiven, and since "repentance" is the intent to keep the law, those who don't try to keep the law can't be repenting, so they won't be forgiven. Both see their sin. Both see their need for forgiveness. Both ask for forgiveness. But only one receives forgiveness because only one tries to keep the law. In other words, only one has earned it.
So the attempt warrants forgiveness. Thus proving grace is not a free gift.

Grace by definition is a free gift. So "grace" in this system isn't grace at all.
In this system, the best you can say is "Perhaps grace was free the first time, but from now on you're going to have to pay for it."
This is fee-grace, not free grace.

PRESUMPTUOUS GRACE

But how unjust is this? The foremost claim of Armstrongism is that only they have the Holy Spirit so only they can understand that the law must be kept in the first place, and only they were called by God in this age to receive His "truth." Don't you see that this means everyone else is in fact completely ignorant that they are sinning at all?
According to Armstrongism the only people that know they shouldn't sin and yet sin anyway are Armstrongists themselves. Even so, according to Armstrongism, those who sin in ignorance will be punished horribly, while those who don't even begin to meet their own standard will become Gods.
So, the only ones sinning willfully are the only ones being forgiven?

This is not the way most Armstrongists think about the issue, but it is a perfectly accurate description. Unfortunately, it does not match the New Covenant's description of salvation by faith; rather it matches the description of the belligerent group "of the circumcision" that troubled Paul continually and it matches the error into which Peter fell in Galatians 2. It also doesn't mesh with how God treats the sinner who sins in ignorance (NUM. 15: 22-29) versus the sinner who sins willfully (NUM. 15: 30-31).

ARE YOU SURE?

(ROM. 10: 9-13) 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
(MAR. 5: 36b) ...Do not be afraid; only believe.

Grace is a difficult concept for any legalist. The legalist focus is on God being pleased by what we do, not on God being pleased by what God does. Grace seems foreign and confusing; too good to be true.
The unfortunate result of Armstrong's teaching was that we could never accept that all of our sins are covered by grace. Too easy! Ergo, all of HWA's grace-talk was double-talk. It was always works-based. It was always conditional. It always had prerequisites. It always depended upon performance. It is always uncertain. If we had genuinely believed that our sins were covered by grace, we would never have used such words as "if" and "qualify" the way they are used in Armstrongism.
Here, read this quote:
"To be under grace does not mean that we have already achieved salvation. [The author confuses justification, sanctification, and glorification. Trust is undone.] It means we have been given unmerited pardon [justification] and are in the process of overcoming and enduring [sanctification]. [They say it is unmerited, but the next sentence will undo this.] Those who endure to the end of this physical existence are saved—saved from eternal death [glorification]. [It supposedly started unmerited, but then we see that it continues only conditionally upon your own effort. Grace is undone.] No one can boast [in other words, no one can know] that he has achieved salvation in this life. [Enter the fear. You will never have unconditional confidence in Christ! Faith is now undone as well.]"
-The Restored Church of God, "What Does The New Testament Teach About Law and Grace?"
Do you see the holistic absence of trust? No one can know in this life if they are saved. Preposterous!

FOCUS ON US, NOT GOD

While all of the sermons and literature plainly say that grace is unmerited, they immediately turn right around and undo that grace by setting up prerequisites and conditions based upon our own effort (as opposed to God's effort in us). If it were truly unmerited, then it would be absolutely sure, because it comes by God's doing. Only if it were not truly unmerited, by somehow being dependent on our own effort (or failure), would it be unsure.

Here is an axiomatic statement: the moment you put a condition of our own effort before the equation, it is no longer grace; grace is destroyed.

The only condition God puts before the equation is, "Am I loving?" And the answer is, "Yes, God is love."

It cannot be both dependent on our effort, and not dependent on our effort at the same time. It cannot be an undeserved gift if it depends on anything at all. It cannot be both merited and unmerited at the same time. It is simple to prove the point; just look at how it really worked --

We would all start out plenty confident that we had received forgiveness by grace for our past sins (notice how again and again forgiveness is paired with the word "past"), but then we all came to understand quickly that grace is lost so very easily through our next sin.
Uh oh! Generally within a week we would have a huge problem. "I've sinned again. Forgiveness is for past sins. Now what do I do?" Then we would feel rotten with guilt, pray for forgiveness, hope that we actually received it (because one can never know), and then resolve to double our efforts. The mind redoubles the effort because it knows, despite all the talk, that grace is conditional upon effort.

And that's how it goes. This is a cycle. Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down. Sometimes we were very proud of ourselves, and sometimes we were maddeningly frustrated with ourselves. These are the two inevitable results of all legalism: false pride and frustrated failure. But we were never confident in Christ Jesus who died for our sins and said "it is finished."

Here is another axiomatic statement: if you're actually keeping the law, then you don't need grace or forgiveness.

If it were humanly possible to keep the law perfectly, forgiveness would have no point, it's simply not needed. Jesus didn't need to be forgiven. But we are the ones who need the grace, right? It is precisely because no man can be perfect that we needed God Himself to save us (ROM. 8: 3). Grace is only useful to the person who sins. God does not forgive those whom He sees being perfect, He forgives those who have sinned and see their need.
Who did Jesus associate with? The tax collectors and sinners and drunks. Who did Jesus come to heal? Not the well but the sick. The Pharisees kept the law. Kept it zealously, in fact! But it wasn't the law-keeping Pharisee who was forgiven in Luke 18: 9-14, rather the sinful tax collector.
Armstrongists don't like the Pharisees any more than the mainstream Christians. We accused mainstream Christians of having no law at all (which is absolutely untrue) while we accused the Pharisees of having too much law. (So keep the law, but don't over-keep the law.) Let's not forget to whom the parable was spoken: "He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others" (v. 9).

SIDE-BAR

As a related aside, I want to share with you a series of statements that a practicing Armstrongist made towards a friend of mine.
I don't do this to paint anyone or group in a bad light. Each person is responsible for their own selves. But I thought this would help illustrate something.

My friend was trying to point out a factual flaw in some comments made by an anonymous Armstrongist. My friend truly - and I mean this honestly - tried to remain calm, present facts, quote scripture, and emphasize how Jesus loves them. The following are the comments made in reply, and are not typical of what I see here in the comments at ABD, but they are indeed typical of things spoken all too often from Armstrongists. And, to my deep shame, I myself used to use language like this:
"I will cast no further pearls before you to trample on, you all have lost understanding of the scriptures, for it is the Holy Spirit that gives that knowledge . I do not answer you because you have no grasp on the basic understanding even of the milk of the word. I will not talk with you any more but will see you in one of the resurrections! ... You have put yourself in the most dangerous group of all, those who knew the truth but went back into Baal worship and pagan customes of the worlds religions. Repent and turn to the truth before it is too late, how can you prefer the the filth of this world religions compared to the written scripture of our Creator. ... AS I SAID BEFORE YOU AND ALL WHO HAVE WALKED AWAY FROM THE TRUTH AND RETURNED TO BAAL AND HAVE PUT YOUR SELVES IN A DANGEROUS CATEGORY.NOW YOU ARE BACK WITH MAMA ROME AND HER FALSE DAUGHTERS! ... We are told to answer a fool according to his foolish ideas I refuse to waste my time any longer, I will pray you will turn back to the truth but as far as I can tell you have been given over to strong delusion. 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.The must be busy getting ready for Halloween soon and the other abominations you have returned to! Get away from us now please! ... These must be a few of your ancestors! Ish:66:17. 'They will come to an end at the same time,' declares the LORD."
Does that sound loving? Does that sound like grace is undeserved? Pride drips from these epithets. They remember to avoid pork, but miss the weightier law. (Do people from other churches also speak like this? Yes. All too often. It is a terrible thing!)

But I promise you, dear reader, these comments come from fear and uncertainty more than anything. I pity this person. How these words expose a heart longing for relief. How that heart labors to exhaustion under the heavy yoke of a system of law-keeping. Oh, how those who laid this burden on this person's shoulders cannot or will not lift their burden (LUKE 11: 46). This person deeply needs the reassurance that comes from the Gospel of certain grace through faith in the unshakable foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ! How light His burden is, how easy His yoke (MAT. 11: 30). His commandments of love and faith are not burdensome (I JON. 5: 3).

CONCLUSION

We can conclude, dear reader, that neither forgiveness nor grace are dependent on Old Covenant law-keeping, but rather trust in Jesus' victory on the cross and His life as our Lord and Savior. It comes by promise, not by law. The overcoming isn't a lifetime of growing better at Old Covenant law-keeping, but rather a life of being led by the Holy Spirit through faith. The endurance isn't to endure a lifetime of failure to keep the Old Covenant law and proving to God that we will do what He says we should do, but to endure a lifetime of faithfulness and eventually come to trust implicitly that God will do what God says He will do. The command of Jesus is faith and love. And the effort is His.

An Armstrongist might say they have faith, and yes they do believe in Jesus Christ, but they don't really trust Him. An Armstrongist might say grace is undeserved, but it is clearly earned in that system. We can see that with repentance, forgiveness, grace, etc, the delimiter is always the attempt at Old Covenant law-keeping. But if law-keeping is so important then we must ask, "Then why don't you keep the law?"

Perhaps we can see that what the New Testament teaches about law and grace is not what Armstrongism teaches about law and grace.

Next time I plan to continue this line of reasoning and look at the Armstrongist view of "If you love Me, keep My commandments."

Also, I suggest for people who read this post that you also read this other post: Common Legalist Arguments Part 1.



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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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