Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Tithing - You're Doing It Wrong

I was recently minding my own business, flipping channels on the telly one rainy Sunday morning, when I came across a church program from a local Protestant group in my area. This group is not affiliated with Armstrongism at all. They are one of those "intro to Christianity" seeker-sensitive churches, with the stage and the band and the light, airy messages peppered with buzz-phrases like "lean in". Don't get me wrong, it's a decent place. They have plenty of community outreach programs and genuinely try to plant the seeds of the gospel in people's hearts. It is difficult finding a balance between evangelizing and making disciples. It almost requires two different churches in one. Their messages may be light and airy, but they do not compromise on solid principles even while they are very patient with people who aren't there yet. That's why I figured I would linger a while and hear what the young gentleman on my screen had to say.

His message was about ... you know, it's odd, but I don't really remember what his message was about. It was something I thought was pretty good. Unfortunately for me, the message was lost when he mentioned one of my personal pet peeves - tithing.

I thought it quite unusual to hear a Protestant mentioning tithing. Especially one from a seeker-sensitive group.

I understand the economics of running a church. They cost a lot of money! You can imagine in our current economic climate, things only get more and more expensive. Tithing is a tempting option. Compelling people to hand over 10% of their income is a more reliable system than depending on freewill gifts.

But there is a serious flaw in this entire plan. For some reason, people seem to think tithing was a system of 10%. What if I told you that is incorrect.

Tithing was not 10%. It was one-in-ten.


What is the difference, you ask? Let me explain.

Originally, ancient Israel was an agrarian society. All that means is most of the nation's wealth was generated in a field somewhere. That is why you will only see tithes of the farm, field, orchard, or flock. That is why you hear of the Pharisees tithing of mint, anise, and cumin (DEU. 14: 22). Note: the church leaders tithed. You will not find a verse where tithes came from money. Or fish, for that matter. You can turn a tithe into money in order to make it easier to transport, but it was not money originally. (Does your Minister accept tomatoes?)

Some did have "income" as we understand it, because there were tradesmen and specialists in that agrarian society. Somebody had to cut stone and build houses and smith bronze and craft the clay and fletch arrows, and etc. That tent aint gonna weave itself! Yet, you never see a verse commanding them to tithe on their pay. It is implied that money income was donated, but it is never directly commanded that money income was tithed. Some forms of income simply were not tithed upon.

So, we are back to tithing on farm, field, orchard, or flock. Here, the one-in-ten system becomes necessary. To explain how the one-in-ten tithing system worked, let us imagine some shepherds.

Once a year, the shepherds would all gather in their area to have their flocks counted. We were reminded by Miller Jones in the comments on this post that it wasn't the whole flock that was counted, but the increase of the flock. An important point to mention! (No one tithes on everything they currently own, but the new income. Or else tithing would guarantee poverty.) For the count, the new sheep were caused to pass under a rod. Every tenth sheep was given.

(LEV. 27: 32) And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord.

Let's say for example there is a poor shepherd who has three new sheep.
Under a one-in-ten system: This poor shepherd brings his three sheep to be counted. There is no tenth sheep to give, so he ends up giving nothing at all.
Under a system of 10%: He would have to cut three-tenths of one sheep and hand it over. That leaves him with two and seven-tenths sheep.

Let's say for example there is a more successful shepherd with twenty-nine new sheep.
Under a one-in-ten system: This shepherd brings his twenty-nine sheep to be counted. As the tenth passes under the rod, he hands it over. As the twentieth passes under the rod, he surrenders it over as well. Since there is no thirtieth sheep, nothing further is taken from him.
Under a system of 10%: He would have to surrender two whole sheep, then cut nine-tenths of a third sheep and hand it over. That leaves him with twenty six and one-tenth sheep.

Do you see the difference?

Let's do what is un-biblical and turn this tithe example into one of money. I only do this because so many people think of tithing in terms of money income, although that "biblical" idea is not in the Bible anywhere.

Ten percent of $19.98 is $1.99. One-in-ten of $19.98 is $1.00.
Ten percent of $983.75 is $98.37. One-in-ten of $983.75 is $98.00.
Same starting amounts, different tithe. The two systems are similar but not the same.

There is a tangible difference between 10% and one-in-ten. What is that poor shepherd supposed to do with that seven-tenths of a sheep, exactly? Plus, with one-in-ten you never have to round up.

If you understand how tithing really worked, it makes the ridiculousness of the Pharisees even greater. They didn't just weigh their herbs and spices then hand over 10%. No. If they were doing it as expected, then they had to count it all out and give one out of every ten. Talk about strain at a gnat and swallow a camel! Doing all of that fastidious counting, but missing the law of love almost completely.


Which system is the more merciful? Which system wastes no resources? Which system only takes from those who can afford it? Which system gives the poor a fighting chance to increase? 
It's not the system of 10%.

If someone tells you tithing is a system of giving 10%, you tell them to get behind you. The Bible never advocates a system of tithing ten percent (let alone thirty percent). The biblical tithe was one-in-ten. There's a difference!

This is a moot point anyway. The tithing system, whether it was ten percent or one-in-ten, is gone. Gone with the Old Covenant and the Levitical priesthood. Replaced in the New Covenant by a system of freewill giving. If you want more about this, we have several articles on our Categories page.

So, for all of the people who talk about tithing and how it should be about money and how a tithe is ten percent, you might want to search the scriptures as the noble Bereans did and reconsider what your Minister told you. Apparently, this goes even for the mainstream Protestants. Because, chances are you're doing it wrong.


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


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Test Anxiety: Passover Examination

For weeks now, one of my children has been expressing concern about his upcoming math final. I repeatedly reminded him that he has maintained a good grade in the class all year, and that his teacher has expressed total confidence in him. Still, he was concerned he might forget something he was taught at the beginning of the year. It was only when the teacher gave the class the test study guide, covering all the concepts included on the test, that started to relax. 

It's examination time, and not just for students. The Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread are imminent for those in the Churches of God. If that includes you, you've probably spent many recent hours examining your life for sin and your home for leaven.

For today, I’m not going to discuss how spiritually toxic I find the Days of Unleavened Bread, or how examining oneself and taking communion only once a year almost boils the observance down to making New Year’s Resolutions. Since we can all agree that the Bible sets an expectation for Christians to take the bread and the wine, and examine themselves beforehand, I’d like to talk about that examination.

The Wrong Study Guide?

The word “examination” has different connotations, depending on the context. It can be a simple multiple-choice test, like my son's math test. It can be an exhaustive assessment. It can have finite answers, or can be more of a progress check. But all examinations have objectives. They have ways to make progress, or positive answers. They have ways to mark mistakes, or regression. And there are definite goals.

If a student was getting ready for a geometry exam, it would be foolish to use a study guide designed for algebra. Someone facing an oral examination in German better not use a Spanish thesaurus. But in the COGs, in most cases, it seems like we’re reading Hemingway to prep for an essay on Shakespeare.

Now, I know I’ve been out of the COGs for a decade, and it’s possible that some things have changed. During my tenure, analyzing our Sabbath observance was a major factor in Passover examination. This was closely followed by the amount of time we spent in prayer. As far as sins of commission, we usually made it as far as considering our truthfulness versus lying before calling it a season and repeating the same drill the following year.

In 2024, many groups do seem to be focusing more - at least in print -  on Jesus. However, when I looked at two of the largest groups, one site included a special section titled “Walk As He Walked” that focused heavily on Jesus’ wilderness experience, temple cleansing, and Sabbath observance while discussing the Sermon on the Mount only in passing across seventeen installments. The other delved into Jesus’ sacrifice slightly more, but also recently recycled an older article entitled “Is Your Life In Sync With God?” in a prominent spot on its website. Not surprisingly, the article focused not on Jesus’ instructions or parables, but on Sabbath observance.

Serious Test Prep

But anyway, how would a Church of God member with sincere intentions examine himself in preparation for the Passover? What is his study guide, so to speak? Is it the 10 commandments? Is It Jesus? Or maybe his keeping of the tenets of the Sinai Covenant, as the COGs seem to suggest?

It seems that Jesus’ example must get a pretty high billing. After all, both your COG ministers and I would agree that Paul instructed us to “imitate him, as he imitated Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). But what exactly did Paul want us to do when he wrote that?

To understand, we need to do something most COG ministers seem to avoid - we need to look at the context. When reading Paul, that often means backtracking. So in this case, we must read 1 Corinthians 10 - possibly the whole chapter, but definitely the section leading up to the verse in question. In this case, it’s 1 Corinthians 10:23-33:

I have the right to do anything,” you say - but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” - but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (v. 26)

If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged for another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

(v. 30)

So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God - even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (v. 33).

Paul starts a completely new train of thought in 1 Corinthians 11:2, so this is section of 1 Corinthians 10 is undoubtedly the idea he’s referring to. Now, I’d love to analyze the parts that discuss “the right to do everything,” “eat whatever is put before you,” and” the sake of conscience,” as well as the role of the meat market, but that’s not why I’m here today. Anyway, the crux of Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 11:1 hangs on chapter 10, verses 31 through 33, which tell us to:

  • Honor God in whatever we choose to eat or drink

  • Avoid causing others to stumble

  • Focusing on the good of others rather than our own

  • Helping others come to salvation

None of these sound much like what I was encouraged to focus on during Passover preparation. And 2 Corinthians 3:18 drives this point home further. Just four verses earlier, Paul describes those focused on the Sinai Covenant as having their vision obscured by a veil that is only lifted when they turn their focus to Christ.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate[ the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”  - 2 Corinthians 3:18

Learning from the Master

So just what does it mean to be transformed into His image? And how does being “unveiled” from the “Law of Moses” help us accomplish this? Well, Luke 6:40-41 describes us as Jesus’ students, and states we’ll resemble Him when fully trained. But to become fully trained, we must study and listen to our teacher. So just what did our master teach? Just to list a few:

  • Do not murder, seethe with anger, hold onto a grudge against a brother (Matthew 5:21)
  • Be a peacemaker and settle disagreements quickly (Matthew 5:23-24)

  • Do not commit adultery or look on another with lust (Matthew 5:27)

  • Turn the other cheek when offended, go above and beyond (Matthew 5:38-42)

  • Pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:43)

  • Do not worry about your physical needs (Matthew 6:25)

  • Do not condemn others (Matthew 7:1) 

  • Balance grace and truth to encourage others and help them seek His ways (John 8:1)

The New Testament contains a multitude of other teachings, from Jesus Himself, and from His disciples, that take more than a lifetime to master. In my household, with our shared religious history, we joke that sincerely employing grace is harder than anything the law prescribes. What is harder to do: to refrain from daily work for 24 hours or forgive someone who betrayed you? 

No More Tutoring Sessions

The Sinai Covenant was a good thing, giving a physical nation physical commands to follow. They helped to show God’s character and focus on righteousness, fairness, and justice. Its overarching purpose, however, was to expose man’s brokenness and need for a Savior. The New Covenant is one we make with that Savior, and has new responsibilities and expectations. Even those who disagree with me on what scriptural phrases like “fulfilled” and “it is finished” mean must contend with Matthew 23:23 - why do they allow these weightier matters to remain undone? 

If God is opening your eyes to the possibility that you were using the wrong study guide for your pending Passover examination, take heart. There’s no need for shame or regret. The law fulfilled its purpose. That was the point of the previous study guide - to show you your need for a Savior. 

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward revealed. Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. - Galatians 2:25. 

The Holy Days served a purpose - for Israel, and in some ways, for us. But as Paul wrote, they have served their purpose. They were shadows of what was to come. And Christ was what to come. Step out from the shadows and step into His light. Join us in the grace, hope, and abundant life He offers.


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


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Is Ceremonial Law Removed?

Something has been on my mind. It regards how Armstrongism treats the Old Covenant law. The way it binds itself to some parts of the law and excuses itself from all other parts. It has never sat right with me how things are had both ways.

We would regularly quote Matthew 5: 18 when referring to holy days or the other laws we wanted to keep. "Not one jot or tittle," we would exclaim! That was our proof-text. The law is eternal. But did we keep the whole law? No. We only kept a small percentage. When we did not want to keep a law, like travelling to Jerusalem three times a year (EXO. 23: 14-17, 34: 23-24; DEU. 16: 16), or building booths at the Feast of Booths, we would say those laws were gone. "Ceremonial laws are done away," we would state. Well, isn't that convenient! The law is eternal ... except the parts we don't like. And thus we had things both ways.

That is what I would like to write about today. Ceremonies and standards. Is the ceremonial law really as "done away with" as we said?


The laws in the Old Covenant seem to fit into one of three groups: moral laws, national laws, and ceremonial laws. In Armstrongism, two of those groups are discarded - the national and the ceremonial. They are considered to be removed, abrogated, abolished.

Where does the Bible define what is a moral law versus a ceremonial law and a national law? The Bible does not tell us because these are divisions realized after the fact. The divisions are manmade. Some astute person was reading and realized, hey, it seems the law has three groupings. This dividing the law into three groups is not something specific to Armstrongism. It is a very old idea. And it's not just Protestant, either, as the Catholics also write about it in the Catechism.

Where is it stated the moral law remains but the ceremonial and national laws are gone? Nowhere. That is also manmade. It is simply part of the Armstrongist doctrine that certain terms of the Old Covenant come forward into the New Covenant. That's how we could make claims like, "Jeremiah 31: 33 says, 'I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts,' therefore the law cannot be gone," and yet turn right around and claim two of three groups of law were gone. Completely contradictory, yet we held both as true, depending on which we wanted at the time.

Have you ever said these words: "I only believe what the Bible says, I don't hold the traditions of men"? Yes? Except that you do hold some traditions of men. This is one of them.

So, what are the divisions? Very (actually overly) simply put --
Moral law: those laws which distinguish righteousness from evil (e.g., you shall not murder).
National law: those laws which were specific to the functioning of the nation of Israel (e.g., sanctuary cities).
Ceremonial law: those laws which prescribe the rituals of worship (e.g., animal sacrifices).

Simple. Right?


Now we get to the hard part. Things that don't cleanly fit the categories. Grey areas. An example would be the Ten Commandments.

Just about everyone believes the Ten Commandments are moral law. Hard to argue with "you shall not commit adultery" (even when someone is trying to excuse away their adultery). But then we have that weekly Sabbath. "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." What really is moral about that? To rest is beneficial, but is it morally beneficial?

Let's compare the weekly Sabbath and see which one fits better.

"Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy" is:
A) Morally good versus evil.
B) Part of the rituals of worship.

Option B fits much better. So, why is it not gone?

Someone out there is thinking the day is holy, therefore it is moral. I want to remind you that holy usually means sacred, consecrated, set apart for a special ceremonial use. It is not exactly the same as morally good. Unholiness can be contracted through physical touch (LEV. 5: 3). Immorality cannot. Inanimate objects can be holy (EXO. 35: 19). Days can be holy (LEV. 23: 4). They cannot be moral. Almost everything that was called holy was part of the ceremonial law (holy place, holy oil, holy garments, holy sacrifices, holy altar, Holy of Holies, etc).

Is it true, then, that the Sabbath is somehow moral just because it is in the Ten Commandments? That's not one of the definitions of moral law that I've ever read. "Distinguishes righteousness from evil, or is one of the Ten Commandments."

What if there is a ceremonial law dropped in the middle of a list of moral laws? What then? Why do we see the Ten as one single unit? Why aren't the individual commandments categorized based on their own characteristics? They are the Ten Commandments, after all, not the One Commandments. Seems the only thing causing us to refuse to accept the Sabbath is ceremonial is ... tradition.

For the sake of argument, let's move forward granting that the weekly Sabbath is a moral law only because it is in the Ten Commandments. I grant that so we can complicate matters even further.


The weekly Sabbath is in the Ten Commandments, but only the weekly. What then of the annual sabbaths? Why are they not gone?

Does the supposed moral goodness of the weekly Sabbath bleed out into the annual sabbaths? How? If the weekly day of rest is only said to be morally good because it is in the Ten Commandments, then how can other days escape their ceremonial nature? Days cannot be morally good, so how can moral goodness extend to the annual days?

You will be hard pressed to find anyone who agrees with Herbert Armstrong on the holy days. Just about every other church, including nearly every flavor of Adventism that existed prior to Herbert Armstrong, considers the annual holy days to be ceremonial. The Adventists don't keep "biblical days". The only thing that saves the weekly Sabbath from the same fate is its part in the Ten Commandments. Why mention the Adventists? Because Armstrongism is a branch of Adventism. Herbert Armstrong's ideas about the Sabbath come directly from the Seventh Day Adventists. Yet, they disagree with him on annual days. One of the reasons Herbert Armstrong was fired from the Church of God (Seventh Day) was for teaching the annual days are required. But where did he get that idea? Armstrong took his ideas from one G. G. Rupert. Rupert supposedly got his ideas from a small fringe-group that mixed Judaism and Mormonism.
Traditions of men?

So, the weekly Sabbath is only morally good because it is one of the Ten Commandments, but the holy days are also morally good because ...they are associated with the word Sabbath?? They are moral by association?

Again, that's not one of the definitions of moral law that I've ever read. "Distinguishes righteousness from evil, or is one of the Ten Commandments, OR has the word Sabbath associated with it."

Then what do we do with the holy days that are not annual sabbaths? The day of Passover is not, five of the Days of Unleavened Bread are not, the Day of Firstfruits is not, and six of the days of the Feast of Tabernacles are not. Why are those not abandoned as parts of ceremonial law? They aren't Sabbaths and they aren't in the Ten Commandments. So, they are moral by association with something that is moral by association?

Yet again, that's not one of the definitions of moral law that I've ever read. "Distinguishes righteousness from evil, or is one of the Ten Commandments, or has the word Sabbath associated with it, OR is associated with something that is associated with the word Sabbath."

Perhaps you think you can't just do away with any annual day once you start keeping annual days. You keep them all or nothing. Or perhaps you think you must keep Passover because it has significance with Jesus. Alright. But then, what of the Day of Firstfruits?

Armstrongism completely ignores Firstfruits. This day is every bit as annual as the others. And it has significance with Jesus. Passover is the day Jesus died; Firstfruits is the day Jesus was resurrected. Herbert Armstrong didn't believe Jesus was resurrected on Firstfruits, but even he taught the rituals of Firstfruits pointed to Jesus. According to the standard set above, does this not make Firstfruits a moral law? So, why is this day ignored while Passover is observed?

And don't get me started on the "Night To Be Much Observed" which is entirely made up. It is made up because Herbert Armstrong misread Exodus 12: 42. Passover is the Night to be Remembered. A made up day is observed, but a legitimate day is ignored?

So, Armstrongism does not teach the keeping of all annual days, or keeping all annual days that have significance with Jesus, but they do keep an invented day. Consistency, anyone?

And not just that, but as we saw in my last article, "Why Not Keep Biblical Days?", even when people say they're keeping a biblical day, they're not keeping it the way the law said to. The name of the day is kept, but nearly everything was removed that made the day what it was. How can the days themselves be moral, but all the things that made the days what they were are ceremonial? Can a day be both moral and ceremonial - at the same time? Parts are moral, like the obligation to "keep" it, but parts are ceremonial, like exactly what you were supposed to do to keep it. How on earth does that work?
And if a single day can be both, why can't the Ten Commandments?

I am at a complete loss. What is the standard here?

Can we get some form of consistency in here, please!


There are some other issues besides days that fit this same pattern of being ceremonial but not gone. Take tithes, for instance. Why are tithes not gone?

The Levitical priesthood was entirely ceremonial. The whole Levitical priesthood is gone, the Temple is gone, and the system is gone - replaced entirely by Jesus and the church. In the Armstrongist system, can something that was replaced be moral law? No.
Tithes existed to support the Levitical priesthood because they had no other means. If the priesthood was not moral, why would the system initiated to fund the priesthood be moral? It is not. So why is it not gone? How do we justify saying the priesthood and everything associated with it was ceremonial, except the system for funding it?

Tithes were for Levites (NUM. 18: 21). If tithes remain, who can receive them? Where is the law that says churches can now accept tithes? I can't find that law anywhere. To make that adjustment, the unchanging law had to change. Are ministers Levites, then? I thought the priesthood was gone!

What is so moral about tithing, anyway? The amount? Nine percent is evil, eleven percent is neither here nor there, but ten percent - righteous! How does that make sense?

Are we to believe that being required to hand over money is moral? Then explain Paul's statement in II Corinthians 9: 7, "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver." It says not out of necessity. A tithe is definitely by necessity. One does not "give" tithes and more or less than one "gives" taxes. Tithes are a requirement, not a gift. Charity and tithes are not synonyms.

Tithes were an offering (NUM. 18: 24). Tithes are closely associated with offerings in multiple verses. Almost all verses where tithes are discussed there is the connotation of an offering.

(DEU. 12: 6) There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 

Offerings are ceremonial and gone. Why not tithes?

And what of second tithe? Armstrongism teaches not one but three tithes. The second tithe, we believed, was for funding one of the annual days - the Feast of Tabernacles. We had to travel and do activities, so we needed funding. Second tithe only exists because the annual days exist ...and we still don't quite know why the annual days still exist.

Yet again, that's not one of the definitions of moral law that I've ever read. "Distinguishes righteousness from evil, or is one of the Ten Commandments, or has the word Sabbath associated with it, or is associated with something that is associated with the word Sabbath, OR it is associated with something that is associated with something that is associated with the word Sabbath."

What's more, why was second tithe only associated with the Feast of Tabernacles? Because that was the one time per year church members were required to travel. Is that what the law says, though? No. The law required travel three times a year, not one.
Armstrong started out requiring travel three times per year, but it was too expensive, so he took that down to once per year. What then? Two of the three travel requirements were ceremonial? How does that make any sense? How is that justified? I was once told, "Herbert Armstrong changed the law out of necessity." Changed the law!??
The law is eternal ...except the parts that are gone, or that we've changed.

Hopefully by this point you see the absurdity of the standard here. Or, rather, the complete lack thereof.

Oh, but there's more!


What about clean / unclean meats laws?

In the Old Testament, clean and unclean pertain to ritual purity. From the first mention, clean and unclean animals references ceremonial cleanliness for the purposes of sacrifice.

(GEN. 7: 1-2) 1 The LORD then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven of every kind of clean [ceremonially pure; Strong's 2889] animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean [not clean; Strong's 2889] animal, a male and its mate.

CLEAN [Strong’s 2889, Heb. Tahor, from 2891]: pure (in a physical, chemical, ceremonial, or moral sense):- clean, fair, pure (-ness).

Do you think the animals were morally pure or impure? No. They are animals. By their nature, they cannot be held accountable for the morality of their actions. No, they were ceremonially pure or impure. This is entirely ceremonial. This can be confirmed by observing what Noah did with those animals.

(GEN. 8: 20) Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

He sacrificed them! They were clean for sacrifice. That is entirely ceremonial. And that is precisely their use throughout the Old Covenant.

For more, see our article "Clean and Unclean for Noah".

In Acts 10, God sends Peter the infamous Sheet Vision. God lets down a large sheet, filled with all sorts of unclean animals, and says, "Go, Peter, kill and eat." What did Peter take from that? Here was his conclusion:

(ACT. 10: 28) 28 Then he said to [Cornelius and his family], “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.

There were a series of laws to keep the Jews separate from the Gentiles: meats laws, marriage laws, circumcision laws, and etc. God revealed a second purpose of the meats laws was to separate Jew from Gentile.
These are the two parts of meats laws, sacrifice and separation. Every separation in the church between Jew and Gentile is removed. Every animal sacrifice is removed. So why would meats laws remain? There is no purpose for it to remain.

For more, see our articles on the Sheet Vision.

God goes out of his way to get rid of meats laws and people cry, "No! No! I need to observe meats laws!" Why? It has been gutted. What purpose is left? Certainly not because they are moral laws. So why? I can't even repeat my "not one of the definitions of moral law that I've ever read" line here because meats have nothing to do with anything moral at all (MAR. 7: 18-23).

And before you say it - no, meats laws are not health issues, either. There is nothing in the Bible to substantiate that. There is nothing in the Bible about meats laws being about health or dirt or anything like that. The only thing you'll find are the two things I mentioned.

Do you want to know why Armstrongism teaches clean/unclean meats laws? The real reason? Its roots in Adventism. Ellen G. White was big on foods, and that came down to Herbert Armstrong. That is the reason. Traditions of men.

Can we get some form of consistency in here, please!


Today, we have seen the three divisions of the law, of which two are supposedly gone. Yet, we have seen several examples of ceremonial items that are not gone, according to Armstrongism. And so, we have asked -- is the ceremonial law removed or isn't it?

It seems the answer is no.
But why not?

In my experience, I have most often had people answer these questions with statements like, "Until heaven and earth pass, not one jot or tittle will pass from the law." But two complete sections have passed from the law. Or, "God changes not, therefore the law changes not". But the law has changed (HEB. 7: 12). Or, "Why would God initiate the law only to get rid of it?" But He did get rid of two full sections of it. Or, "The law will be written on our hearts." But which laws? The laws that are gone?

The point of those statements is to say the law will never be done away. But that offends reason and denies reality. Not a single person who says those things intends to keep the whole law. Every single person who says those things knows they are only referring to certain laws. So, those statements are absurd. Do those responses explain why one law is kept and another discarded? No. Do those responses explain why the examples we reviewed today are not ceremonial? No. Do you know what those statements will do? They show that we talked out both sides of our mouths.

Since those things we reviewed today are ceremonial, tell your Minister you're not going to do them anymore.
What? That makes you uncomfortable? Why? Are the ceremonial laws removed or aren't they?
Fine. Tell your minister the ceremonial laws are not removed.
What? That makes you uncomfortable?

There are more examples than this. I could go on about things like circumcision, the gateway to the law. But I think we've seen enough. I think the point is sufficiently made.

My point is really about the standard - the shifting standard -- the lack of standard. One standard is used here, another standard is used there. Keep this part of the law here, don't keep that part of the law there. Demand the law will never change here, demand the law has changed there. Say we don't like traditions of men here, keep traditions of men there.

Standards and ceremonies and traditions of men. It's a double-standard. And that has always bothered me.

I don't want to go without leaving you a solution to this dilemma. Dear reader, beloved by God, I pray God guides you to step into the New Covenant in faith.


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


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Why Not Keep Biblical Days?

From all different corners of the world, and from people of various flavors of Protestantism, some version of this question has been popping up more and more lately:
Why do we keep made up holidays when the Bible gave us days we can keep?

It's a valid question that deserves an answer.

This is something we have hit on over and over again here at As Bereans Did since around 2010. We don't mind repeating ourselves (at some point we are going to want to stop, though, because frankly we've gone over this). Usually, the target audience is Armstrongists. Today, I am going to talk past the usual audience to address a more general population.

So, what is our response? Why not keep biblical days? I will start by answering the question with a question.


So, you're going to "keep" a day that you see in the Bible. How do you plan to do that, exactly?


What do you plan to do to "keep" the biblical day? Are you going to keep this biblical day according to the biblical instructions for it? So, for example, let's imagine it's Passover. You're going to do what exactly? Eat a Seder? Do you know the Seder as it is kept today by the Jews is not what is instructed in the Bible? The Bible doesn't say to have four cups of wine and a hard boiled egg and vegetables in salt water and gefilte fish. If you are going to keep a biblical day - stressing the idea that you got it from the Bible rather than some made up holiday - don't you think you should keep it the way the Bible says to, rather than, you know, making up ways to keep it?

Don't worry. We have you covered. Here's what you do --

First, you travel to Jerusalem. You can opt to travel to Jerusalem if you're female, but if you're male you are required to. Because that's the only place you are allowed to keep it (DEU. 16: 5-7). You're going to have to do this a little early, because you need to select a lamb or a goat without blemish then keep it with you for four days (EXO. 12: 3-5). So, get there by the 10th of Nissan. Then, at the very start of the 14th of Nissan, you go ahead and remove all leaven from your household (EXO. 12: 15). That means no yeast or baking soda or rising agents of any kind. And no already leavened bread, which includes dough starters, cereals, cookies, crumbs, and etc. Jews will remove grains as well, to make sure they aren't contaminated with microbes that might cause them to rise when cooked. (It's a valid concern as that was how risen bread was made in the ancient times.) The Jews also include any alcoholic drink made form grains. Anything with leavening in it has to go (DEU. 16: 4). Hint: you might want to check inside your toaster and under the seats of your car, too. (I know that from experience.) For seven days, the only bread you may eat must be unleavened (EXO. 16: 3). It's not just that you must avoid leavened bread, you must actively eat unleavened bread (EXO. 12: 20). Matzo is an easy option. Make sure it's Matzo rated for Passover, because not all Matzo is. (I know that from experience, too.) Removing leavening from your home will be difficult while you're in Jerusalem, we know. Perhaps you might want to divide the responsibilities, because as someone is at home removing the leaven, someone else is going to have to go to the Temple and sacrifice that lamb, or goat if you're bougie (EXO. 12: 6). Then, once the animal is properly sacrificed by the Temple Priests, you can go back to wherever you are staying in town and roast that lamb on its bones with some bitter herbs (EXO. 12: 8). Don't get fancy and try cooking it any other way, as that is not permitted (EXO. 12: 9). Goat burger with feta, arugula, and a mint aioli is verboten. Leftovers are also not allowed. Anything you can't finish eating that night will have to be burned up (EXO. 12: 10). No gyro for you tomorrow.

And while you're doing all that, the Temple Priests will be doing the offerings in Numbers 28: 19-24.

And that is the minimum requirement for how you keep a Passover! You are now ready to keep your first Biblical day.

You may have noticed an issue regarding the Temple and the animal sacrifices. Yes, that has been a thorny problem lo these past 1,900 years. It does have the unfortunate effect of making it nigh impossible to keep a biblical Passover. And that is a main reason why the early church didn't even try. So, how are you going to "keep" this biblical day, exactly, when you literally cannot keep it as the Bible says to? Make something up? The Jews did! It was the only reasonable thing they could do. So, they made up new traditions. Oh, we are not criticizing the Jews at all. Not one bit. They did what they had to do to continue observing ordinances given to them. It was either that or stop altogether. Can you blame them? We don't. But, that takes us right back to the initial problem, doesn't it? You've made up a holiday.

Oh, you can add in things that were done during the Last Supper, like foot washing - which was also made up, as there is no law for foot washing - but it might be good to bear in mind that Jesus did not have the Last Supper apart from its Jewish context. It was a Jewish Passover performed by Jews living during the final hours of the Old Covenant period. Jesus was doing the things we've reviewed and adding new elements. Adding Last Supper elements to your biblical Passover doesn't do anything to remove your obligation to also do what is required for your biblical day to be Biblical. Forgoing Passover elements and only going for Last Supper elements definitely turns Passover into Easter. It's what the first century church did. They got rid of Passover elements, only kept the bread and wine, and went forward calling it Passover. That would be the opposite of what you're going for, though. You're going for keeping a biblical day, not Easter. But isn't the Last Supper biblical? And you can't do the things required for your biblical day. There is no Temple, nor Priesthood, nor animal sacrifices. So I guess that leaves everyone in a difficult spot. The exact same spot as the first century church.


Now, when will you be enjoying this Passover?

The Bible says to observe it on the 14th day of the month of Nissan (aka Abib) (EXO. 12: 6). But when is that, precisely? Will you follow the Jews? Don't you know the modern Jewish calendar is not the same calendar used at the Temple in Jerusalem? After the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, and after the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem due to the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132 AD, the calendar used at the Temple no longer worked. So, Rabi Hillel II revamped the calendar in 359 AD. The calendar the Jews use today is based on but not the same as the one used at the Temple. In fact it's better. But better is still different. You are going to want a biblical calendar to go with your biblical day. What calendar did they use at the Temple? We aren't entirely sure. They kept the formula somewhat of a secret. What we know for certain is it's not exactly the one used today. Since we are on the topic of calendars, didn't you know the Jews had at least three "Hebrew" calendars in the first century (Essene, Galilean, and Judean/Babylonian)? And none of those three are exactly what Moses used. So, you need to decide which calendar you are going to follow. Don't choose a made up one!

What's more, when will you be enjoying this Passover meal?

You should know there is currently a timing dispute among people who attempt to "keep" this biblical day. Not calendar timing. This is different. The dispute is over when on the 14th the Passover rituals, like the Seder & etc., should be performed. Should it be on the evening at the start of the 14th or the evening at the end of the 14th? Hebrew days went from sunset to sunset, so each day technically had two evenings. Several verses say Passover rituals should be "at twilight" or "evening" on the 14th (EXO. 12: 18; LEV. 23: 5; NUM. 9: 3-5, 28: 16; JOS. 5: 10). But what does "at twilight" or "evening" or "between the evenings" mean, exactly? The first or the second? A casual reading could get you equally to either evening. I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say it gets complicated. Jesus kept His final Passover on the first evening, while the Jews kept it on the second. (There is nothing to indicate Jesus always kept Passover this way. It is reasonable to conclude He did not.) Who shall you follow? The one keeping the biblical day, or the one keeping the biblical day? In the end, we have two camps of people "keeping" the same biblical day on two different evenings. Which will you choose? And what will you say to the other camp, or about the other camp, when they question your decision? What will you do if they accuse you of heresy? The majority of non-Jews who "keep" biblical days aren't doing it because they find it fulfilling, they are doing it because they feel commanded to. They call them God's holy days. Any departure from their doctrine will threaten them and win you a negative response. You are a heretic in defiance of God in their eyes. And they will be happy to share that fact with you. You might want to be fully educated on why you chose what you did. But not for their sake. They are right and you are wrong and that is that. No, for your own sake. I suggest starting with a good understanding of the two Great Covenants.


I am going to assume you are a Gentile since I cannot imagine any Jew would ever ask a question like this in the first place. So, Gentile, how do you plan on "keeping" Passover as a Gentile? Don't you know that according to the law of Passover, Gentiles were forbidden from observing Passover (EXO. 12: 43-49)? That's the law! That law likely includes Firstfruits and the Days of Unleavened Bread, since they were often lumped together under the term Passover. You must become a Jew in order to observe these days. Men, schedule your circumcision. Ladies, marry an Israelite. People like to say, "God gave us days to keep." But, did He? Because He didn't give them to us Gentiles at all. He gave them to the Jews, and Jews only. This is another main reason why the early church didn't even try to "keep" biblical days.

Jews can be some of the most welcoming people. Once they get to know you, they will invite people to share in their observance of Passover. They do so without expecting anything, including conversion. Conversion is generally not what they want at all. They just want to share who they are. I respect that, deeply. I would go without hesitation. However, it isn't exactly what the Bible prescribes. For a Jew to share their Passover is one thing. It's their day. It was given to them. They can share it if they want to. It's another thing entirely for a Gentile to take the day upon themselves. It's not our day. It wasn't given to us. If you are taking up this day when the Bible clearly says not to, are you doing the right thing, biblically speaking? The point is to be biblical, right?

I would imagine being prohibited from keeping a day we aren't sure when to keep and which we cannot keep as prescribed even if we wanted to is really going to complicate this plan to "keep" a biblical day.

So far, we have only gone over Passover. I haven't gone into the other biblical days, such as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, Rosh Hashanah, Atonement, or Tabernacles. Not to mention Purim, which is in the Bible, so it's biblical, but it's also "made up" by the Jews (EST. 9: 22-27). Or Hanukkah, which is mentioned in the Gospels (JON. 10: 22-23), so it's biblical, but is detailed only in the Apocrypha, because it's "made up" by the Jews, too. Biblical and made up? Yes. It's enough to make a person think "made up" holidays are entirely permitted by the Bible. Because they are. In other words, it's biblical to make up days to honor God. The Bible allows that. How does that affect your decision?

But believe me, the other days come with just as much if not more detail as Passover. Do you even own a shofar? You'll need one. Will you side with the Pharisees or the Sadducees on when to observe Firstfruits? It matters. Are you going to have a last great day to your Tabernacles or not? Remember when I said you have to travel to Jerusalem to keep the Passover? You actually have to do that three times a year. Yeah. Please take the time to understand what you're getting yourself into before you start down this road of "keeping" biblical days.

Maybe you thought this was going to be a simple thing. Perhaps you thought you would just take a made up day out and put a biblical day in, like changing socks. The reality is it's not so simple in practice as it is in theory. This section has been about the days as they actually are. Using Passover as an example, we have shown you the law. In other words, the days as they actually are, not as they are reinvented, or romanticized, to be. Do you love the days as they are, as they actually are, or have you built up an idea in your mind about the days that changes them into something else?


What days are given in the New Testament to remember events of the New Testament? Answer: none.

Passover does nothing to recall His resurrection - the greatest single event in the history of the physical universe. Keeping biblical days does not take you back to the early church, it takes you back to Sinai.

What days are directly commanded in the New Testament? Answer: none.

There is nothing new commanded to remember events of the New Testament. The Apostles commanded no mandatory days of observance at all. The early church observed the Last Supper, but with newly made symbols and meanings of our Lord not with old symbols and meanings of Old Covenant law, and by tradition not command.

Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of Me," but He didn't exactly specify when (LUK. 22: 19). It does not say, "Do Passover in remembrance of Me every year." It says bread and wine "in remembrance of Me" (I COR. 11: 24-25), and that isn't really Passover. Yes, the bread is a Passover element, but it is one element out of many and hardly enough to constitute all of Passover. The wine is not commanded as a Passover element anywhere, and Jesus doesn't say anything at all about the rest of those things we went over in the last section. So, when do we remember Him with bread and wine? It doesn't say. Doing something is clearly assumed, but what, and when?

For the most part, the early church decided weekly and annually. Is that "made up"? Yes and no. Which will you go with, the 'yes' or the 'no'? Or both? People talk about "made up" days like there was some cut and dry system which most of the early church decided to ignore. That's simply not the case.

Paul said, "Let us keep the feast," apparently in reference to Passover, but then he went right on to change the imagery, saying, "not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth," (I COR. 5: 8). Some people say this is a command to keep Old Covenant holy days, but we disagree since the context cannot support such a far-reaching conclusion as that. Paul is using imagery to make a point about morality vs immorality. Goes well with what he said in Romans 7: 6.

So, what does the New Testament say about days? It says a couple things.

First off, it says the Jewish converts were "zealous for the law" (ACT. 21: 20-21). What this means is, the Jewish converts were fully permitted to continue in their Old Covenant traditions in the New Covenant era. That includes days. Those things are their culture. Those things were given to them (ROM. 3: 1-2; 9: 4-5). It's theirs to keep (ROM. 11: 29). They can both accept Jesus as their Messiah and keep the Old Covenant traditions of their forefathers. Jews were not required to become Gentiles in order to be Christians.

Second, conversely, it says Gentiles were under no obligation to observe Old Covenant traditions (ACT. 20: 25). How could they be obligated if they are in fact forbidden? They cannot. Acts 15 is all about how that decision was made. It was God Himself who revealed the Gentiles were under no such obligations (ACT. 15: 28-29). So, the Gentiles were not to be circumcised nor keep the whole law (ACT. 15: 5). That includes days. Almost the entire book of Galatians is a record of Paul dealing with this issue. Yet, even as Paul zealously defended the Gentiles from legalism, he never abandoned his own Jewishness (ACT. 21: 24). Gentiles do not need to become Jews in order to be Christians.

Third, Paul made it abundantly clear that there are no obligatory days in the New Covenant (ROM. 14: 5-7). There is no command from the Apostles in the New Covenant to observe any day. We know days were observed. The Lord's Day was definitely observed. I am not saying days were not observed. I am only saying days were not commanded to be observed. Observe days, don't observe days, it's all the same. Either way, what you choose to do, do it to the Lord. Now, the Quartodeciman Controversy taught us a good lesson about how this freedom affects unity, so take that lesson with you.

Fourth, Paul specifically expresses concern about it.

(GAL. 4: 10-11) 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.

Paul is not talking about divination or paganism. If Galatians were doing those sorts of things, Paul would express more than just concern. Paul goes back to Genesis 1: 14 to get this phrase. The days and months and seasons and years he refers to are in reference Old Covenant law (EZE. 45: 17). You know, those biblical days you are thinking about keeping. If we follow the context of Galatians, we know Paul is specifically warning the Gentiles about taking up Old Covenant days. That is the overarching context of the book. It concerns him so much because if people start mixing law with grace, it can ruin their faith (GAL. 5: 1-4). That's why Paul says, "I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain." That's some very serious stuff. Why do we not "keep" Old Covenant biblical days? Because it's not as great an idea as it sounds.

This is where it gets important to know your motivation.


This comes from introspection. There are many questions to ask yourself. Primarily, why would you want to do this in the first place?

Be honest with yourself and peal away the rhetorical buzz phrases like "made up" and "biblical" that are only there to manipulate. What is your true motivation? Are you bored? Are you disappointed? Do you feel there is a more genuine experience to be had in those days? Are you looking for more spirituality? Do you think the Old Covenant Pesach will bring you closer to Jesus than the New Covenant Pascha? Are you tired of secular encroachment on Christian holidays? (I am!) Do you think the Old Covenant days are commanded for Christians? Do you prefer days that remember events from the Old Testament versus days that remember events from the New Testament? I bet it's not that last one. I hope it's not this next one! Do you feel you will become more pure or holier than others if you "keep" these biblical days while they keep their "made up" days?

So, we ask, what is your motivation? Do you really love these biblical days as they actually are, or do you love the idea of these days that you (or someone else) have made up?

We also ask, why stop there? Why stop at annual days? Why not go on to weekly Sabbaths? The biblical rest day. And why stop there? Why not also have tithes? The biblical way to pay. And why stop there? Why not have clean/unclean meats laws, too? The biblical way to eat. And why stop there? Why not also prohibit mixing of fabrics? The biblical way to dress. And why stop there? Why not do everything according to the Jewish calendar (or whatever calendar you chose earlier)? The biblical way to tell time. And why stop there? Why not add various other laws? The biblical way to be. Why stop there....

It's a slippery slope! Be cautious! A little law leads to a little more. After all, what is so biblical about these days besides the command? Both "biblical" and "made up" days have their roots in the Bible, in worshipping the God of the Bible for things God did in the Bible. So what is the difference? The command. The law. (Even though that same law tells you not to.) Thousands before you have been tripped up over this. Your motivation will either make or break you on this point. This is precisely what worried Paul!

Don't think that could ever happen to you? Look at the original question. It sets up two options: biblical vs made up. You could see that as a wrote matter of cold fact. Sure. Or, you could see that as a rhetorical dichotomy. Words meant to set one idea up and pull another idea down. One is biblical. Godly. Yay! The other is made up. Worldly. Boo! Hiss! Therein lies the rub. The toe is already dipped into the pool of us vs. them before you even make a choice. Who would want to choose made up days? :-( Only people who don't obey God, am I right? So, off people go by the score, to "keep" a godly and holy biblical day ...that they make up. Only a few steps down that road, and "made up" day becomes "pagan" and "sinful" day. Oh, beloved by God, be so very careful about your motivations! The road to self righteousness lies before you. Again, I come back to Paul's worry.


Why do we keep "made up" holidays when the Bible gave us days we can keep?

  • Because we can. There's nothing wrong with it. The book of Esther makes that clear enough.
  • Because there's a lot more to it than taking Easter out and putting Passover in. Or any other biblical day. There is a whole lot more to it.
  • Because unless you modify them, biblical days miss important parts of New Covenant events. Where is God's incarnation? Not in Trumpets. Where is Jesus' resurrection? Not in Passover.
  • Because Gentiles are forbidden by law from keeping those days. When contemplating what days "the Bible gives us", it is a good idea to remember to whom the Bible actually gave those days. Hint: it's not us, the Gentiles.
  • Because it's a matter of Covenants. They aren't the same! Know which one actually applies to you. Making the wrong choice will have far-reaching consequences.
  • Because there is no command to observe Old Covenant days in the New Covenant. No day is commanded in the New. People want commands. Having none in the New, they go to the Old. Which brings us right back to knowing which covenant applies to you.
  • Because it's not a safe option to mix law with grace. Be wary, lest you start seeing days as having some part to play in your salvation, as meriting you something, as obligatory, or as making you somehow better off than your fellow Christian. That's when Christ's righteousness in you by faith becomes self-righteousness by law, where "gift" becomes "merit", and you fall from grace.
  • Because we can no longer "keep" biblical days as the Bible demands they should be kept. And if you aren't keeping them as the Bible says to, are you really keeping them at all? Are they really biblical? Or are they ... made up days? And if it's made up, then what's the point?

Be cautious! Mind your motivations. Know your covenants.

Hopefully this article goes over the highlights of the issue and helps you to get a better idea of what this decision really entails. As I said, there is a lot more to it. An informed decision is a better decision. We have many articles in our Categories page to help you.

We pray you make the right choice for your walk with God. Whatever choice you make, make it in faith, make it to the Lord, and stay humble. We hope for you God's guidance, grace, and blessings.


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


Wednesday, April 3, 2024

What Use Is The Old Law?

Over the years, As Bereans Did has posted multiple articles regarding how the Ten Commandments were the base terms of the Old Covenant, how the Old Covenant was never binding on Gentiles in the first place, how the New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant, how it is not true that the terms of the Old Covenant come forward into the New Covenant, how Gentiles do not need to become Jews to be Christians (and Jews do not need to become Gentiles to be Christians), how the law is not actually being kept by those who demand it must be kept, and how the new law (which is the oldest law) is love and faith. You can find our articles listed in the Categories page.

One thing we've not addressed well enough is what good and what use does the Old Covenant law hold for us today. There is a use for it. I have asked and have been asked, "Why would God write this law just to get rid of it?" Because it was designed for a purpose and that purpose is now fulfilled. I propose a different question, "Why would God write this law and leave record of it if there is no use for it at all?" Because there remains a use for it. The book of Romans tells us what that is.

I am going to bluntly state this right at the start: the use of the Old Covenant law is not in keeping it. But that is for another post, like the ones mentioned above.

I believe the Old Covenant law has two uses: 1) to show the wicked how they need a Savior, and 2) to help guide the righteous to a better understanding of God.

I invite you to come with me. Let's spend some time in Romans together.


Paul spends two and a half chapters of his epistle to the Romans charging everyone with sin. All have sinned (ROM. 3: 23), both Jew and Gentile - those with the law and those without the law. (Notice Romans was written in 56-57 AD, and the Gentiles are still without the law.) He basically repeats this in I Corinthians 9: 20-21. Then he defends God that His judgment against us is righteous and just. The one thing we've earned from God is His wrath.

For all of those who say the definition of sin is "the transgression of the law", notice how Paul makes it abundantly clear that the law is not necessary for sin to be present.

(ROM. 2: 12a) For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law...

(ROM. 5: 13-14a) For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses...

The definition of sin cannot be transgressing the law if sin existed before the law. The law is not necessary for sin to exist.

Nor is the law necessary to do good.

(ROM. 2: 12) for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves

(ROM. 3: 21)  But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law

So, we do not need the law to sin nor to do good, nor can the law judge us because the Old Covenant is abrogated. The law can't help or judge. So, what good is the law?
Use it for what it can do!

(ROM. 3: 19-20) 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Not, "by the law is the existence of sin," or "by the law is the definition of sin," or even, "by the law is the overcoming of sin," but, "by the law is the knowledge of sin." In other words, the knowledge that sin is in us.

I will try to come up with an analogy to make it more understandable.
A young child keeps touching her mother's keepsakes. One day, she drops and breaks one. Fearing the rest will get broken, the mother makes a rule that if the child touches the keepsakes she will get a smack on the hand. The child touches the keepsakes anyway and gets the punishment promised.
Did the rule create the offense? No. She was doing the same undesirable act before the rule, only without understanding. Did the rule, which was good and meant for the child's good, change the child's heart? No. It may have changed this one particular behavior, but deep in that child's heart she still wants to get her little hands on anything and everything. The only thing that prevents her is she fears getting smacked on the hand. Chances are, now that they are forbidden, she wants those keepsakes even more than before. Maybe she will sneak a touch when mom isn't looking.

(ROM. 7: 7, 11-13) 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” ... 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.

Indeed, "the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (ROM. 7: 12). It is useful in helping a lawless and sinful heart to realize - to have knowledge of - their sin. If they pay attention, they might even come to know that their need is exceedingly great. After all, what is the point of knowing about sin or the greatness of sin except to know of the need for a Savior and the greatness of that Savior. The law can be used to help a person who is trapped in sin to understand the reality of their situation.

(I TIM. 1: 8-11) 8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

The law is not for the righteous - the one who has their Savior. I used to believe the righteous are the very ones the law was most for. It was the law that made us righteous, I thought. This says otherwise. The law is not for the righteous, but it is the unrighteous who can find some use in the law. But not to make them righteous! Only to make them consciously aware of their unrighteousness.

I want to point something out.
It is important to understand that we are not judging a person when we use the law to bring them to the knowledge of their own sin. Their conscience can judge them plenty on its own. We stand as witnesses for the defense, not the prosecution, and never as judges. God is judge. We are trying to HELP those who are trapped as slaves to unrighteousness, not condemn them. Too many Christians judge and condemn. We are not to condemn! We are all sinners in need of a Savior. We are not better, nor stronger, nor one bit less in need of a Savior. Spitting the law at our fellow sinner is not the proper use of the law. If we use the law as a hammer then we don't understand our own sin, and if we don't understand our own sin then we have no business addressing anyone else's sin in the first place. It's one thing to use the law as a mirror to hold up to a sinful heart so it can see itself and seek God, it's another thing to beat someone over the head with it. Too many Christians hold themselves up as the standard, abusing the law as a witness of their own righteousness, but that is not right! The law is holy and just and good, not us. The law doesn't make us anything but aware of our sin. Even Paul, who kept the law better than any of us could, still saw it all as worthless (PHP. 3: 8). And he said, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (ROM. 7: 24).
Beware when using the law!

Now, where were we? Oh yes. About that righteousness...


Someone might ask me, "If the law shows us our sin, doesn't heeding its warning mean we keep the law? Doesn't Paul say, 'For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law' (ROM. 2: 25)?"

Are we keeping parts of the law? Yes. Does that do us any real good? Not really. You keep the Ten Commandments? That's fine. Now, only 603 more laws to go. Keeping 3% of the law isn't keeping the law. If you're not keeping all the law, you're not keeping the law at all. Paul did say it's profitable if you keep it, but half his point is no normal human has or can. Over and over, he mentions the Gentiles don't have the law and the Jews don't keep the law. It's even worse now that no one can keep the whole law as written. Our hearts are weak to sin. The law proves this. The law doesn't fix the heart, or super-power it so it is no longer weak to sin. It was weak to sin before the law, and it is weak to sin now. Attempting and failing to keep the law does nothing to change this.

Didn't I bluntly say, "the use of the Old Covenant law is not in keeping it"? Because showing us our sin is not the same as overcoming our sinful nature. The law can show us our hands are dirty, but it can't wash that dirt off. If it could do that, it would have done so in at least one case during the 1,400 years it existed before Jesus. It did not. The law can only punish us for getting our hands dirty. The only thing that can wash these hands clean is the blood of Jesus.

(ROM. 8: 3) For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh...

(I John 1: 7) But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Once your hands are clean, there is no further use for the law. "The law is not made for a righteous person."

(ROM. 6: 14) 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 

(GAL. 5: 18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Didn't you read the opening paragraph in this article? I started there for a reason. Didn't you read our FAQ page? Didn't you read any of our articles on the New Covenant? Didn't your read the epistle to the Romans? Sin exists apart from the law. Sin takes advantage of the law to kill us. The law is indeed good, but our flesh is weak to sin. Because of our weakness, the law gives sin its teeth. Sin kills us by the law. The law says 'obey or else', but sin causes us not to obey, so then we get the 'or else'. Try to keep the law all we want to but it will not help because it cannot help, because it has no power or provision to help. Our power naturally comes from our (sinful) heart, which cannot keep the law. So, the law can only punish us for failing. To set out to keep the law is to set out to fail. Indeed, we've already failed, so it's already too late.
The solution? God does not want our flawed attempts at righteousness under the law. That's not righteousness, that's self-righteousness. No, He wants His perfect righteousness imputed to us by faith.

(ROM. 10: 1-3) Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel [the people who have the law] is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness [through law-keeping], have not submitted to the righteousness of God [imputed by faith].

(PHP. 3: 9) ...and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith...

None of the things in the following list comes from the law:
  Justification (GAL. 2: 16; ROM. 3: 20)
  Righteousness (GAL. 2: 21; ROM. 3: 21; PHP. 3: 9)
  The Spirit (GAL. 3: 2)
  Perfection (GAL. 3: 3; HEB. 7: 19)
  Miracles (GAL. 3: 5)
  Inheritance (GAL. 3: 18)
  Life (GAL. 3: 21)
  Grace (GAL. 5: 4)
  Faith (GAL. 3: 12)
Since this is the case, what could we possibly hope to get from the law? Use the law for what it can do. Don't jump right back into trying to use the law for what it cannot do.

I am not going to go on about this point in this article. We have plenty of other articles that go on about it. This article is about what the law can do, not what it cannot do.


There is a second thing the law is good for, and that is getting a better understanding of God.

I like to think of the Old Testament as a conversation I got to overhear. Was I an active participant? No. Was anything said to me? No. Was it about me? No. I am a stranger to the conversation, all I did was overhear it. Beware whenever someone says, "Listen to what God says to us." Nothing in the Old Covenant law was said to us. But that doesn't mean it has no value, because it was said for us.

(ROM. 15: 4) For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

In this, the Old Testament, with its heroes and covenants and its laws, is just like the creation. It is there to tell us something, to reveal to us something.

(ROM. 1: 20) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse

Paul tells us of these two witnesses - the natural and the revealed. We can find the attributes of God in both, if we are willing to look. There are so many examples of this, I cannot do this topic justice, so I won't even try. I will summarize a few points instead.

In reading through early Christian history, I have been privileged to read over and over again how they used the law to come to a better understanding of Jesus, of the nature of God, of fine details and of broad strokes. You will never fully understand Jesus the Messiah and His ministry and accomplishments without reviewing the law. Even though the earliest Christians did not feel obliged to keep the law (they knew it didn't apply to them and couldn't be kept anyhow - even by the Jews), they still read and learned from it.

The ceremonial law was used to teach Israel about the holiness of God. Reading about it can teach the same to us. So many points in the ceremonial law - from the way Israelites were not allowed to participate if they were ceremonial impure, to the way the High Priest could have no great deformity, right down to the priestly garb how it was vibrantly multicolored most of the time but stripped of all pretense and pure white on the Day of Atonement - taught people about the holiness of God. He is a God of wholeness and perfection. Set apart. Holy, holy, holy. The majority of those rituals and sacrifices had very little to do with morals but were about preserving sacred space. Even the poorly named "sin offering" wasn't about sin, it was about ritual purification to make you fit to enter holy space. That's why even pots could be contaminated, and certain ones were broken while others were scrubbed clean. Can pots sin? No. Those rituals and sacrifices could never remove sin (HEB. 10: 4). They were about holiness, not righteousness. You could technically be morally impure yet be ritually pure. The space which God occupied, the Holy of Holies, was entirely set apart and needed to be perfect and whole. The closer you got to it, the more perfect and clean and whole you needed to be. Why? So we could be perfect and clean and whole? No. So all could learn that God is perfect and clean and whole. We can still learn from the ceremonial law!

The holy days might not teach us about some "7,000-year plan of God" as Herbert Armstrong frequently said, but it does teach us about the attributes of the plan of God to bring about a Messiah to be a propitiation for sin and bring about Atonement. One need not keep the holy days to learn from them!

The Ten Commandments, being the core of the Old Covenant, might not be binding any longer in the letter, since that Covenant is abrogated, but much can still be gained from them. For example, the Sabbath day teaches us that God cares for us, bodily, not just spiritually. And not just humans, but animals and even the land as well. The commandments regarding murder and theft and honoring both your father and your mother teach us that God cares about society and family, and so should we. And who cannot learn from the Shema? "Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One" (DEU. 6: 4). What a statement! The law, written and engraved on stones, may no longer be our source of righteousness, but the lessons they teach are still quite valid.

For another example, look at the way the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament. If I had to choose one New Testament book that pulls form the Old Testament the most, I would suppose it is the book of Revelation. Most people only see scary images and opportunities to unlock future mysteries if they only try hard enough, but they miss how the book is practically a duplication of old themes which are meant for everyone in their own time, fifteen hundred years ago and right now, to learn from and apply in our lives. The entire book of Revelation is far less about some future events and more about how you approach life right now. We've had the book for nearly 2,000 years. Everyone who has read it has waited for the fulfillment but had to apply its lessons to their lives in their time. What does it say to us?"

(REV 1: 3) Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. [Even today! Every day!]

Paul says the law even witnesses to something greater than itself.

(ROM. 3: 21-22) 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.

That is in the law! The second good use of the law is to point us at God's righteousness. Our unrighteousness but His righteousness. That is a proper use of the law.

I have always been impressed by Martha's ability to make points about what I'm trying to describe here. If you want more, I recommend you read everything she's written. She does a much better job than I.


This post is about what the Old Covenant law can do. The old law is good, if we use it lawfully. I hope I have demonstrated the Old Covenant law has two uses: 1) to show the wicked how they need a Savior, and 2) to help guide the righteous to a better understanding of God. It cannot fix our hearts. It cannot clean our hands. It cannot bring us closer to God.

Once a sinner is aware of their sin and aware of their need for a Savior, introduce them to their Savior. That is the ultimate goal of the law - to point mankind to their Savior. 

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

Christ is the goal of and the termination of the law. It pointed to Him. Like a pedagogue, it watched over Israel while they waited for Him (GAL. 3: 23-25). He fulfilled it - all of it - and then He replaced it. He, working in us through faith, sends the Holy Spirit to us to do what the law could never hope to do. He can fix our hearts. He can clean our hands. He can bring us closer to God. The Holy Spirit, from the Father through the Son, is our teacher and guide. God in us, and us in Him. And it all starts with seeing our own need.

Right now would be a great time for you to read Galatians 3 again. (I'll wait while you do.)
There. Do you see how it all snaps together now? Funny what a little perspective can do.

I don't know how many opportunities you are going to have to use the law to help a person see their need for their Savior, but if you do get that chance, hopefully you do it knowing the proper limits of the law. And do so in love.

God bless you, dear reader, deeply loved by God. I pray for you to know the law better, know yourself better, and know Him better, and to have a closer walk with Him though faith.


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

Acts 17:11