Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Common Legalist Arguments - Part III

In my last post in this series Common Legalist Arguments - Part II, I went over the idea that "God wants us to be obedient." We saw that it isn't about external obedience from an external law but an internal change of heart from an internal faith and indwelling of God.
This time, I would like to approach what may very well be the second half of that same idea. But I see this as the heart of legalism itself.

"We are commanded in the New Testament to obey God and His laws"

This argument is very tricky to address, not least of all because it's very hard to nail down even an adequate description of it. The buzzwords here are "command", "law", and "obey". Yes, these words exist in the New Testament. But what's really at the heart of this argument is the desire to make the New Covenant conform to the Old, and that simply is not possible.

The New Covenant is not like the Old Covenant (JER. 31: 32). What is happening here is people have been taught to view the New as a renewal of the Old, with its laws and commands and ordinances and requirements. The struggle of this post is to show how that approach, although it may appear to fit, in fact is not the correct approach. In other words, the challenge of this post is to show a more perfect way. What I ask is for the reader to pray for understanding because I find it difficult to fully communicate this to you because what I will be describing will seem like a technicality, or a slightly different way of viewing the exact same thing. Truth is, however, it is much more than just that. It is a crucial distinction.
I think it would help to start in Jeremiah 31.

(JER. 31: 31-34) 31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah [this is a New Covenant; it is not just a slight alteration or a renewal of the Old] — 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers [The phrase "according to the covenant" is taken from the word "covenant", so this could read "Not the covenant...". No, not that covenant at all!] in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke [and people still break it who teach we must keep its requirements], though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law [Singular! "Law" not "laws".] in their minds, and write it on their hearts [here is the crux of the issue: which "law"?]; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more [and thus He has done; the Old Covenant is gone, replaced in its entirety, and unavailable to us - the New has come in].

People who say this is the merely Old Covenant written on our hearts (until very recently I was in agreement with you), please look at the covenants and see what I am inadequately trying to explain. In the Old it was "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not". In the New it is "I will". "I will write", "I will be", "I will forgive". Do we see the change in focus here? There was nothing inherently wrong with the old law. The law IS good! But the problem was in our hearts. We cannot keep it!

This is just as James said: 

(JAS. 3: 11-12) "11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh."

Which is just what Jesus said:

(MAT. 7: 16-20) 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

These are not verses about "them" out there somewhere. These are verses about us! Our hearts are not capable of producing what God is looking for. Our hearts are salt water and thorns. Our righteousness is filthy rags. Try and try and try as we might, double and re-double our efforts, our olive tree hearts will never produce the figs Jesus desires. Law or no law.

So long as we say "I must", we prevent God from saying "I will". If God says "I will", then it is a promise. He most certainly will (if we step aside and let Him)! And if He is in us, so will we. But not because of us, rather in spite of us and because of Him!

So, what is His solution? He replaces us.

(JON. 15: 1-5) 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

The fruit no longer comes from our olive tree hearts. He is the vine. We are now branches of His tree. He produces the fruit in us. Not because of the effort of the branches, but because He is the one handling the work. "For without Me you can do nothing."

Now it is no longer about, "because of the law I must," rather it then becomes, "because of my relationship with Him I want to,". It was our hearts that prevented us. The law could not bring about righteousness inside us because, as good as it was, it cannot change our hearts. That law could not transform our hearts of stone. At best we had an outward show. It was external. Now God Himself is internal.

Now we must ask, when the New Testament says "law", what "law" are we talking about here? This is the true crux of the problem. One group sees this as meaning the Old Covenant law, lightly modified and brought forward into the New. "Things are brought forward unless otherwise stated," we were told. That is not how covenants work, my friends. That is the opposite of how covenants work. God did not change us in order to be compatible with the unchanged law. There is a more perfect way. God has changed us AND the law... AND the promises.

Let's ask what law did God write on our hearts? With a New Covenant comes a new law.

(JOHN 13: 34-35) 34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
(JOHN 15: 12, 17) 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
(GAL. 5: 14) The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
(I TIM. 1: 5) The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
(I JOHN 3: 23) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
(I JOHN 4: 21) And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(II JOHN 1: 5-6) 5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

It is obvious what law the New Testament is referring to - the Royal Law of faith and love.

How is it that I used to believe the Old Covenant law is required of us? I was taught, and I accepted, that these 10 Commandments were the summary of God's will for us. They were the peak, the pinnacle of God's will! "The Big 10," they are called. But this is not true. There are greater things than the 10 Commandments!

(MARK 12: 28-34) 28 One of the teachers of the law [notice closely that this man is a teacher of the Old Covenant law] came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" [Now we will see what God instructs a keeper and teacher of the 10 Commandments as to what are God's priorities!] 29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' [NOT one of the 10.] 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' [Again, NOT one of the 10.] There is no commandment greater than these." 32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

There is nothing more to ask. Love God and love your neighbor. Done. Faith and love - these are the greatest commandments according to God. Greater than the 10 Commandments.

And Christ spoke these words during the Old Covenant period! So many times in the past few years I listened to Church of God ministers proclaim that the 10 Commandments are subsets of these two. Yes, they are! SUB-sets. Lower. While these two are greater. That is God's opinion, not something I made up. How can these men be so very close - fully understanding the beginning - but not coming to the ending?

(I JOHN 4: 7-8) 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

This is a principle, not necessarily a command. God IS love. You cannot be greater than God, and God is love. His command is for us to love. This is the pinnacle. This is the apex. This is the height, the peak, the topmost. All else comes down from this and this fulfills all else. Love. And if God is in us (by faith), love will be in us, God will be loving through us. It is exactly as Christ said:

(JOHN 14: 15) If you love me, you will obey what I command.

Do we see this as saying, "If you love Me, you will keep the Old Covenant law"? (Thus forgetting that Jesus just got done saying "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.") Or do we see it as, "If you love Me, My Spirit, My Father, and I will be in you, making our home with you, and I will be fulfilling all righteousness in you, taking you along with Me despite your failings"?

Once again I say, as I say over and over and over, that it is not about us, it is about Him!!!

Why, then, do men insist that we look farther down the line when we can have the very essence of God in us? If we have love, we have all else. Jesus Christ is possessor of all things. If we have Him (by faith), we possess all things. Why do we bicker and argue over a day of the week? And that in direct violation of what Paul taught in Colossians 2: 16!

These next verses confuse so very many people who merely have had it explained to them incorrectly, which hopefully now we can fix:

(ROM. 13: 8-10) 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Why does Paul quote these specific selections of the 10 Commandments? Is it to tell us they are still in effect? NO! Covenants do not work that way. It is to emphasize that all the law ever tried to do was point you towards love. See what Paul says, "whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" And see again his conclusion, "Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Paul isn't saying "keep the 10", he is saying "love, and you have fulfilled ALL!"

It is at this point that most Armstrongists will tell me that I am talking in circles. They might ask, "Aren't you just keeping the 10 Commandments anyway?" Here is something you will come to find if you step into the New Covenant. A person who follows the Royal Law of faith and love will, on the outside, look a lot like a person who strives to keep the Ten Commandments, but on the inside the motivations will be very, very different.
"I must have works of law in order to be saved," is very, very different from, "I have been saved, so I express my gratitude by allowing God to work through me."
And, "I must tithe," is very, very different from, "God has blessed me, so I express my gratitude through giving."
And, "I am afraid I have really messed up this time and God is very angry at me," is very, very different from, "I have let God down, but I have confidence God will pick me up and brush me off."

I tell you that what a person who fulfills the Royal Law of faith and love does is fulfill ALL law, not just the 10, and not just fulfill but full up, press down, and fill up again until running over!! The New Covenant bursts the Old like new wine into old wineskins and tears it like an un-shrunken patch on old clothes.

Some cannot get past the idea that love is greater than the 10 Commandments. YES, I am keeping the righteous requirements found in the 10, but not for the sake of any external law which Paul called "the ministry of death, written and engraved in stone" (II COR. 3: 7) and a "yoke of bondage" (GAL. 5: 1). It seems subtle, but it is not - it is the difference between "ministry of death" and "promise of life". The Royal Law can fulfill all law, but the opposite is not true. Paul says clearly:

(GAL. 5: 4) You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

And, again, Paul says:

(GAL. 5: 6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

Now is when the Sabbath always comes up. If I am keeping the 10 Commandments, why am I not obeying the 7th day Sabbath? A legalist will hold this up as proof that love does not fulfill the law, but it's not me that they try to prove wrong, it is Jesus Christ. For a person in the New Covenant, there is a Sabbath rest.
Herbert Armstrong would always ask, "What problem does mainstream Christianity [HWA used more derogatory terms, but I digress] have with the 4th Commandment?" I ask much the same! What problem does Herbert Armstrong have with the 4th Commandment? He is the one that taught all the law was magnified. Circumcision is of the heart, adultery is of the heart, covetousness is of the heart, murder is of the heart. But the Sabbath is .... ? They were magnified, he said. But who asked, "then what of the Sabbath?" If all of those things were magnified, then what of the Sabbath? How was it "magnified"? The answer is that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets. And here is how He "magnified" the 4th Commandment:

(MATT. 11: 28) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Jesus is the sabbath.

Remember how at the beginning of this post we saw that the Old Covenant is "thou shalt" but the New Covenant is "I will"? This is the same thing here. It does not say "the Sabbath day will give you rest", but "I will give you rest." Christ is our Sabbath.
If we have Christ in us, we will be fulfilling even the righteous requirements of the Sabbath day, because our spiritual rest is in Christ and no longer in any mere physical rest on one physical day. 

People say, "We need to set aside time to be with God." Yes, I don't argue that. But if God is in you, He is always with you, and you do set aside time to be with Him. Not just during specific hours of the week, but whenever you can.
People say, "We need to not pursue our own gain on the Sabbath". Well, if Christ were in you, you would be a living sacrifice. If you give 100%, when are you living for yourself that you would have to cease that on merely one day of the week? Wouldn't you be setting aside your own gain always? Don't we see how the Sabbath is magnified, if I may borrow the man's argument?

(ROM. 8: 8-9) 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

This isn't a post about the Sabbath. I don't want to get any deeper here on this side-tangent than I have already. For more on that than I could possibly expound upon, read Justin Martyr's "Dialogue With Trypho". Pay special attention starting in chapter 10 where Justin asks,
"Is there any other matter, my friends, in which we are blamed, than this, that we live not after the law, and are not circumcised in the flesh as your forefathers were, and do not observe sabbaths as you do?"
Justin wrote in the early 100's AD, immediately after the age of the Apostles. He is a primary example of how the first century church REALLY operated (as opposed to how HWA said they operated).
Also read the Didache chapters 9, 10, and 14. The Didache was written somewhere between 50-120 AD.

Back to the subject at hand. The New Covenant is not like the Old. It may appear to be a subtle difference, but it is in reality deeply profound if Christ opens your mind to it. God's own nature is "written on your heart". In other words, your nature is becoming like God's. This is something I remember from Armstrongism. They taught this principle. Why do they not achieve it?

(ROM. 9: 30-32) 30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone."
(ROM. 1: 17) For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

It is by faith indeed and faith alone. As Paul said, "by faith from first to last." This is not about keeping law, the 10 Commandments or any other. The "law" is love and faith. But it is not in that we keep a law of love, but that we have faith in Christ, and by that faith the Spirit is in us, and by that Spirit in us we love, and in love we have fulfilled all the righteous requirements of all law without ever pursuing righteousness through law. It is by faith!

I am a blessed man. Blessed beyond anything that I have ever deserved or could earn. I have met wonderful people since I left Armstrongism (not that I say the people I knew while I was there were not wonderful, but the people I know now are wonderful too). The difference is, the friends I now have are a blessing to my soul, while the friends I once had were well-intended but a distraction to my faith. I still love them dearly! They are better people than I am. I pray that they will receive the eye-opening faith that I have undeservedly been gifted by God. But my new friends are a benefit to my faith. Read what Seeker and Luc and Raccoon have said in their comments to my previous post.
Seeker wisely likens what I am trying to convey to a parent/child relationship. Which would you rather have, children whom you have to command and correct but whose hearts are far from you, or children who are so in tuned to what you desire for them that they just do everything by nature (even though they are still flawed)? Obviously the latter is by far the better. Again, which is better, a servant or a friend? Obviously a friend. And that is what God wants from us! We can not, I repeat CAN NOT, obtain this relationship by law. It must come from faith. Even though both children are for all practical purposes doing much the same, one is pursuing by law and the other by faith.

The Pharisees kept the commands, but since their hearts were so far from God they added all sorts of extra things until what God wanted was not being done and what was being done missed the point entirely. But they kept the law! They kept it far better than you or I ever have. Why wasn't it good enough? Because it cannot be! And this is no different from the teachers of legalism today. Oh, sure, they say "keep the 10 Commandments", but as certainly as the sun rises in the east, they will add to it such things as tithing, food laws, holy days, etc. Before you know it, since their face is towards the Old Covenant, that is where they run off to. So what we're really, honestly talking about in this argument #3 is not just the 10 Commandments by any means, but a greater creeping in of the Old Covenant. And right back we are imprisoned in what Jesus died to redeem us from.

Saul, a Pharisee, was, "as for legalistic righteousness, faultless," (PHP. 3: 6). Yet Saul, once his heart was changed, gave all that up for rubbish!

(PHP. 3: 7-9) 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith

Here, Paul, an Apostle who was taught by Jesus Christ Himself, tells us that any righteousness we may obtain from pursuit of law is rubbish! Why, then, do we still have this debate, now some 1,900 years later? Why don't we consider pursuit of law as rubbish? This third legalistic argument is destroyed!! Not by me, but by Christ on the cross! Why do we still say, "We are commanded in the New Testament to obey God and His Old Covenant laws"? And if after all of this you still say, "I will still go to church on the seventh day Sabbath," then fine and well. I have no argument with that at all. Be fully convinced in your own mind, not doing this by law but by faith. I ask that you not condemn those Christians who do not view it necessary to keep a seventh day Sabbath, calling them "worldly" or "so-called Christians"; conversely do not place yourself upon a pedestal as if you will be in a greater resurrection because of the law (there are 632 laws in the Old Testament, of which you keep but 3%, and imperfectly, but by faith they keep the righteous requirements of all 632). Know that you must not judge another man's servant (ROM. 14: 1-10).


What is argument #3 again? "We are commanded in the New Testament to obey God and His laws"

No, beloved of God, we are not commanded in the New Covenant to keep the Old Covenant. That is the opposite of what we are commanded to do. We are commanded to look higher! To love and to faith.

Wisely, Christ said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (REV. 3: 20). Why is Christ outside of His temple, knocking to be let in? Let Him in!! Beloved of God, I pray for all men, but most especially and sincerely for those who are already Christians yet are unwittingly trapped in a legalistic pursuit of righteousness that no man can accomplish. I pray you will step FULLY into the New Covenant. I pray you will no longer sit on a fence between the two, accomplishing neither! The New Covenant is not "thou shalt", but rather "I [Jesus Christ the King of Glory] will". If we are to obey anything in the New Covenant it most assuredly is not the precepts of the Old. It is about faith and love. It is about Christ and not us. I pray you will ask Christ to let Himself into His temple. It may be dark where you are, you may not be able to find the door, but cry out to Him and He will open (and no man will ever again shut). God bless you and open your eyes and your heart and give you peace!

For a fuller exposition on how Covenants work, see our articles "Confusing the Covenants" and "Parties to the Covenants".

[Also see Part I, Part II, Part IVPart V, & Part VI]

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.


James Pate said...

"Why does Paul quote these specific selections of the 10 Commandments? Is it to tell us they are still in effect? NO! It is to emphasize that all the law ever tried to do was point you towards love. See what Paul says, 'whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'' And see again his conclusion, 'Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.' Paul isn't saying 'keep the 10', he is saying 'love and you have fulfilled ALL!'"

I find this statement to be helpful. It's not as if the OT law is bad: it had its function, and there's a sense in which it still applies to the Christian--we fulfill the goal and point of the OT law when we love. But, although the NT refers to the OT law as an authority, it also refers to the example of Christ, which goes beyond the OT law. Christ sacrificed himself for us, and that's far greater than "Return a person's wandering ox" and "Don't kill."

From a practical perspective (not an exegetical one), though, I have problems with the New Covenant view that Christians automatically desire to do the right thing. There's still a lot of bad within us. One thing I think your post may highlight is that there's a passive and an active component to sanctification, on our part. We let God work with us, yet we have to yield.

xHWA said...

Very good observations, James!
I am glad you found some help in this.

Good thing about our desire to do the right thing... Jesus' Christ makes up for our lack via credit for faith. His righteousness is perfect. :)

Questeruk said...

Thanks for this xHWA. In a short comment I cannot hope to cover all the points you have made, so won’t try.

I will say that I certainly understand and agree that at the ‘top of the pyramid’ is Love, God’s love, and that is shown as the two ‘golden rules’ love to God and neighbour.

But then surely much of the rest of the Bible is showing HOW that love is expressed. It’s like saying – show love – yes, fine, that’s right, but How do we show love? The Bible then elaborates as to how to show love.

As you say, the 10 commandments, as explained by Jesus, are subsets of that love – ‘third level’ down if you like – showing how to apply the love of God to both neighbour and to God, as in the OT statement ‘do not kill’ - the reason is for this is shown to be because we need to show Love to neighbour, not hate. It’s the motivation in our minds, that we should never allow a lack of love, or even hatred, to develop to physical violence or even murder. This is the same for all the commandments.

I completely agree with your statement “Now it is no longer about "because of the law I must" rather it then becomes "because of my heart I want to".

That is so right - it’s not a matter of ‘having to’ but ‘wanting to’.

You say there are 632 laws in the OT – this may well be correct, I have never counted them! However I would say that, rather than a burden, the majority of these laws also show the love of God in action.

For example - not harvesting the corners of your fields. Is this a burdensome physical law? Nor really – instead it is bringing out a spiritual principle – Love. Love to your neighbour – love for those not so blessed as you. It was ensuring that they have the opportunity of obtaining food for themselves, food which would not be available otherwise. Yes, you could say that it was ‘making’ people do something that really they should be doing anyway. But there is no way that this principle of looking out for the welfare of those less blessed than yourself has been ‘done away’.

There are laws about taking care of your neighbour’s livestock, if you found that they were wandering around free. Has that been ‘done away’ – no way – surely this is also a way of showing love for your neighbour?

It’s something that we should do ‘because we want to’, out of love to our neighbour, not ‘because we have to’. Over the years several times I have found pets of my neighbours out loose, or have looked after them when my neighbours were away – be it a wandering tortoise, or a pony that broke out of it’s tether. Has this ‘love to neighbour’ principle been ‘done away’? Absolutely not, the principle stands, and will continue to stand.

The Bible is one unified book, showing God’s love to mankind. You mention things such as ‘adding’ food laws, as if that is some great burden. I fail to understand how this is a burden. Surely this is an act of love by God to His creation, mankind, in guiding us and giving us knowledge of His creation.

Certainly the clean and unclean creatures are documented within the OC laws, but they are mentioned elsewhere. Are we saying that God decided to restrict His people Israel by limiting their diet, by calling certain creatures unclean, but in reality there is no problem with them?

God is a God of love – he knows how he created mankind, He knows how He created other creatures, and just what would be good to eat. Why would he not, in love, communicate this to His creation, mankind?

Centuries before Israel even existed, Noah knew what was clean and unclean. If he didn’t before, he certainly did know when God drew up plans for what was to go into the ark.

Looking to the future, Isaiah 66v17, makes a passing reference which shows that clean and unclean food will still be recognised in the millennium.

Peter, several years after the crucifixion still had no idea that all food was now OK. He plainly stated that he had never eaten anything that was unclean. His vision really worried him, until it was revealed to him that God was saying to call no MAN unclean – in other words that all mankind was now eligible to receive God’s Holy Spirit. This was something vastly more important that a special message to Peter that he could now set up mousetraps to supplement his diet!

I do appreciate your article, and in so many ways I do agree with the principle you state, of no longer ‘I must’, but ‘I want to’.

But there are so many principles that God gave to Israel that, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, you can discern the underlying reason that these principles were given – to show LOVE to both God and our neighbours.

xHWA said...

Quest, I will tell you, you don't appear to me to be far from the Kingdom. (It's not for me to judge whether a person will or will not be there.)
Even Paul refers back to the law from time to time.

I would say that the difference in where we stand is that I'm not just saying love is good. I'm saying law was brought in to condemn you. And certainly it did its job on us all.

Law does not give us a guide as to how we should put love into practice. Law points to love, but law says "do or die". No exceptions.
And the law also says such things as "you shall not suffer a witch to live", thus making it mandatory that you kill witches. See, a person must consider all of the law and not just selections of it.

Law isn't a safe and novel thing - it kills. Leaving the corners of your field IS a good thing to do. But make it a law, and fail only once, then WHAM! you're condemned.

I would suppose that if you were to do those things in the law, then that's fine. Because laws, once you break them, well... you're dead. But if you aren't aware that there really are 632 laws in the O.C. I would say, chances are, you've violated the great majority of them regularly. And hence....

Now, assuming that you completely agree with me that law cannot save you (you know that grace is of Christ and not the law), I would ask if you feel failure to keep the law can disqualify you from grace?
But, be careful in what you answer! Because if you say "yes", then you condemn yourself, and if you say "no", then you disagree with the COGs.
To say "yes, but Jesus makes up for when I fail" is just another way of saying "no".

The reason why I ask this is (to me) it's all about judgment and condemnation. If you don't want to eat pork, for example, then by all means don't eat it! Don't injure your conscience with pork. But if you see someone else that is in all respects a fine and upstanding Christian, with full faith in Christ, and that person eats pork... that is the test... how will you treat them? Will you see that person as being condemned, or set behind, or "worldly", or in any way less? I hear from Armstrongists often, and I myself used to say often, that those things are so! Well, we each stand and we each fall to Christ individually.
But it goes beyond that. Do you see yourself as condemned, or set back in any way, because you do not keep the law? (You may keep parts of it, but you don't by any stretch keep all of it.) Well, that's where the danger of the law really lies. When you stop seeing it as guidelines for a Godly life and start seeing it as hard and fast regulations, with penalties for violation, then your own conscience condemns you. I wouldn't want to see that happen.

I would ask you, as a personal favor to me, to read my posts on meats over at my old blog (oldest to newest). I touch on a few things, like Noah, and Peter's reaction to the sheet vision. For example, if Peter not knowing 10 years later that he could eat pork is any indicator that we should not eat pork today, then Peter's not knowing at that same time that the Gentiles were called is an indication that none of us are Christians today!

You mentioned burden, and I would like to touch on that. This is where the burden comes in. It's not just meats. It's all or nothing with the law. All 632, or 0. That's the choice. That's what Paul and James both say.

(GAL. 5: 1-3) "1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law."

Meats may not seem like such a big deal seen alone, but they are not alone. They have 600+ other friends that cannot be separated out. The Old Covenant is gone. Paul calls it a "yoke of bondage" and a "ministry of death written and engraved in stone". He didn't say that for no reason. If Paul sees it as a burden, and Christ died to remove that burden, then I don't see any Godly reason to insist on putting a burden back on again that Christ died to remove.
Christ said "take My yoke". If I have a choice, I'm choosing His yoke.

James Pate said...

Okay, but here are some points to toss out:

It's not as if the law mandated the death penalty for every sin. A thief, for example, had to repay the amount he stole and then some. And even the Old Covenant had some mercy in it. Offerings could atone for unintentional sins, and God forgave Israel when she repented. Plus, there are people who are presented as righteous under the law. There are good kings, whose goodness is described as them not turning to the right or the left in their obedience.

Is there a way to reconcile all this with Paul's picture of the Old Covenant: as something that led to death and condemnation?

xHWA said...

Not physical death in this life for every penalty, no. But there was no way to make true sin-removing redemption under the Old system. Sacrifices were wholly insufficient to genuinely remove sin. And once you violated even one section of the law, you were guilty of all. That is clear in the Bible. And that is what I am referring to.

The other half of what I am getting at is the idea that we can pick and choose what we want to follow from the Old, then cover it all up with the sacrifices of the New. I totally disagree with that.

James Pate said...

That could be: that Jesus' sacrifice is what makes us fit for the afterlife. The law didn't always bring physical death for every penalty, but there can still be spiritual death.

Here's another point: A lot of times, evangelicals like to apply that James 2 passage on the law to their message of salvation: we can't keep the law perfectly, and, if God judges us by the law, we're guilty, so we need Christ. I agree that Paul thinks along those lines, for Paul often talks about the law being weak and bringing condemnation. But I don't think that James 2 is saying that. When I read James 2, he seems to be saying that we should keep all of the commandments rather than picking and choosing.

Of course, at the same time, James 2 focuses on the commandments that relate to love: don't kill, don't commit adultery. He says we shouldn't show partiality.

xHWA said...

Good dialog, James! Thanks for participating!

I feel that James 2 is speaking primarily about how terrible partiality is (ie. we are all part of the same Body) and how mercy will overcome judgment (ie. forgive us our debts as we forgive others). But as for where he seems to quote the 10 Commandments, I think he is hearkening back to Matthew 5, 6, and 7 (as opposed to the Old Covenant).

I see the Royal Law and the Ten Commandments are different. The Royal Law being to love one another. Now, it is my opinion that if we keep the Royal Law, we will be keeping the spirit of 10 Commandments. (Legalists never stop at the 10, though.)

What I notice about works is that "works" does no equal "law". James talks about works, but he doesn't mention law, he mentions acts of kindness (which stem from the Royal Law). I also see that elsewhere. Matthew 25: 31-40 seems to imply that acts of kindness are what we will be judged by. But what intrigues me most is that people who are approved by Christ don't seem to even realize that they've done such good things.
That seems to be much deeper and much more potent than "I have to keep a law, I have to keep a law, I have to keep a law".

Seeker Of Truth said...

I'd like to throw a few things out for the HWA's (Armstongist's, that is):

~Jn 13:35 By the Sabbath they will know that you are my disciples... Ummm :-/ Nope! Actually: "Love one antother... by this they shall know you are my disciples.

~Fulfilled:completed to perfection.

If I were to ask you to feed my animals for a week, while I am away on vacation, and you feed them for the whole week that I am gone, then you have fulfilled what I have asked of you. Shall you continue to come to my home and feed my animals once I have returned from my trip? Of course not. I'm home, I can feed them. What am I to do when you keep coming over, insisting that you must continue to feed them?

~The OC... is the problem that it's too easy?
If you answer yes, doesn't that tell you that you think you have to earn it? That it's up to you?
It is easy. That's why Jesus said his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Because it is easy. So, question yourself every time you think "it's too easy."

~Here's one from the OT: Stoning a child for striking a parent. How loving does that sound? How merciful does it sound? If you believe you are under the command to leave the edges of your field for the poor to glean, then what makes you exempt from stoning a child who strikes a parent? If you believe you are commanded to keep one, you are commanded to keep them all.
If you walk in love, it's not a command to give to the poor, it is an act of love. If you walk in love, you have mercy on, and direct, a child who strikes a parent, you don't start gathering rocks.
Let's say I'm a parent who has a child who is not guided by love, and thus his choices get him into a lot of trouble and cause others pain. I give him some harsh rules to follow: Be home by 4PM; No leaving the room for phone calls; you can't go to school sports without one of your parents to chaperone; no dates without your cousin going along...
In the mean time, I stand on the sidelines talking with a friend about how sad it all is, because this is not what i want for him. I don't want him to be stuck with all these burdens. What I want is to to remove every one of those harsh rules, and for him to simply be guided by love in his day-to-day choices. And I ask my friend, "If he loves me, why can't he just be guided by love?"

~I'd be grateful if you'd humor me and take out a piece of paper and write some things down:

1) What does this mean?: Ro 9:30 - What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone."

2)Stumbling Stone (Ro 9:32): What is it?

3)Veil: 2 Co. 3:15 What is the veil that covers the eyes when Moses is read?

4)Obey: Why do you think "obey" means OC and not to NC?

5) What does this mean?: Ga 5:3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

6) What does this mean?: 2 Co3:7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone...

I would ask that you answer these questions, on paper, as if explaining to a third grader.
This is not something I'm asking to respond to here on the blog. I'm asking you to simple write them down and answer them for yourself.

God bless you in your quest for truth.