Sunday, April 24, 2016

Spiritual Traps from the Days of Unleavened Bread - Part 2

Today I'd like to continue my series about the spiritually dangers of the Days of Unleavened Bread. Last time, we examined Paul's writings in 2 Corinthians 3 discussing the veil that kept the Jews from comprehending their Savior, and how it applies to the Churches of God. This time, we'll look at another spiritual trap the Days of Unleavened Bread encourage – fostering dependence on works and self-righteousness.

There's no denying that the Sinai Covenant was works-heavy. Eat this. Don't eat that. Rest on a certain day. Make your clothes in this certain way. Obey these things and you will be God's special people. He will bless your nation, water your crops, multiply your herds and scatter your enemies.

As a result, the Hebrews became pretty pleased with themselves. They took pride in their special status with God. Consider the Pharisees' statement to Jesus in Matthew 3:9 - “We have Abraham as OUR Father.” Throughout the gospels, we get a good picture of how the Jews viewed the gentiles. They regarded them as dogs.

Gentiles, of course, could join the nation and become party to the Sinai Covenant. If a foreigner wanted to join the nation, all the males in his family must be circumcised before he could take the Passover (Exodus 12:48). And if one did not keep the Passover, he was cut off from Israel and remained in his sins (Numbers 9:13).

This is why circumcision was such a big deal in the early church. Many Jewish Christians believed their Gentile brethren needed to become circumcised to enter the community of faith. But make no mistake – this was not just about circumcision. Circumcision was the rite, the gateway that made outsiders eligible to be party to the Sinai Covenant and “keep the law.”

It's obvious that many Jews still felt superior to the Gentiles. We are more than a quarter of the way through the book of Acts before we see that Gentiles can receive the Holy Spirit – and even the apostles are astonished! Even after the matter is settled in Acts 15, many Jews still tried to pressure Gentiles to become circumcised. Even Peter was not immune to this prejudice and hypocrisy, as we see in Galatians 2.

There's no doubt that self-righteousness like this exists in the COGs today. It's probably partially due to confusion caused by Herbert Armstrong's disproven theory of British Israelism. But even COG publications give evidence of this self-righteousness; mostly over points of Sinai Covenant law keeping. How many times have you seen statements like these in print over the years: “True Christians keep the Sabbath.” “True Christians faithfully observe God's Holy Days.” These statements are coupled with language disparaging sincere Christians as “so-called” and “deceived” in publications like the Living Church of God's “Tomorrow's World” magazine. Forget what Jesus said would be the true sign of His disciples.

“I see all that too, Martha, and it disgusts me,” you might say. “But that's not me. I keep certain laws because I can see that they have benefits, not because I think they qualify me for salvation.”

Look, I totally understand the desire to continue with habitual, often lifelong, physical practices, especially if you think you see blessings. But the fact is, we were heavily propagandized about many of these practices, and that thinking doesn't go away overnight.

But the Sabbath is a great blessing, you might say. I don't disagree, in theory. Physical rest certainly has benefits, as does assembling with those of like mind. Assembling for worship, prayer and support is commanded in the New Testament as well. But these practices would benefit us ANY day of the week, not just on Saturday.

Perhaps tithing is your hang up. God loves a cheerful giver! But if 10 percent is good, wouldn't 15 percent be better? I mean, if we are to be “living sacrifices,” well, Jesus didn't just lose a couple of limbs. He gave it all.

Or maybe clean and unclean meats is your thing. God made all animals, and knows which ones are good and bad to eat. Certainly following food laws has physical benefit! Peter avoided unclean meats for years after the crucifixion! Many believe that pork carries health risks. Many more believe eating red meat, such as beef, is even more risky. If you're really concerned about taking a stand for health, you probably should cut out all meat, not just pork. Paul said he would never eat meat again if it was causing a brother to stumble. Maybe we should all listen to Paul, PETA and Dr. Mercola.

The fact is, blessings for physical observances that were stated in the Sinai Covenant vanished with the Sinai Covenant. Scripture plainly says that covenant is obsolete. True, things like adultery and murder are still wrong under the New Covenant. But it's because they violate the teachings of Jesus, not because they violate the 10 Commandments. They, along with the rest of the Sinai Covenant, were  intended to show people their sinfulness and need for a Savior. Once we come to that understanding, it has done its job, and we no longer need a tutor. The indwelling Holy Spirit becomes our guide. God uses this method to shows us our sins and flaws on a far deeper level than any checklist ever could.

This same God who knows our hearts so deeply understood that linking salvation to our works would lead either to self-righteousness or despair. It would cause us to either see ourselves as better than others or as a desolate sinner with no hope. God knew what He was doing when he established grace, not works, as the basis for salvation.

The Days of Unleavened Bread reinforce the very things salvation by grace was intended to short-circuit. We focus obsessively on a physical task, on our actions. We attempt an admittedly impossible task – removing all leavening from our dwellings - as symbolic of an even more impossible spiritual task. We pause to remember the death of our Savior; then deny the reality He came to establish – that we are truly unleavened now, thanks to Him (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Avoiding sin is good. Taking in the Bread of Life is good. But we can do these things without flirting with a yoke of bondage; without celebrating a Holy Day that focuses on the physical and establishes a performance trap mentality.  Which leads to the third concern about the Days of Unleavened Bread, which I'll discuss in my final DUB post.

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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