The Law and You

Yesterday, I wrote what even I consider a pretty scathing piece, but when it comes to the eternal and constant truths of creation and the Creator, I get my cackles up pretty easily.

What I want to use today’s hopefully shorter entry is to address some of the arguments that were presented to say that I was being hateful, or that perhaps I was picking and choosing which laws to follow from the ancient Levitical laws.  More importantly though, I want to redirect the focus of this conversation from the subject of yesterday’s writing, the author of the Momastery blog, and the topic of that writing – homosexuality and the Bible – and bring it back to what all of this is truly about – Truth, Grace, and the Living God.

So let’s take care of the quick and easy stuff first – Levitical Law.  One of the criticisms of my writing yesterday was that I myself was picking and choosing which Levitical Laws to follow and which to ignore.  On it’s face, this criticism has some merit, but when we take the scriptures as an whole, we have to look at these ancient laws differently than we do even the ten commandments.

John Calvin posits that We must attend to the well-known division which distributes the whole law of God, as promulgated by Moses, into the moral, the ceremonial, and the judicial law. Francis Turretin further explained The law given by Moses is usually distinguished into three species: moral (treating of morals or of perpetual duties towards God and our neighbour); ceremonial (of the ceremonies or rites about the sacred things to be observed under the Old Testament); and civil (constituting the civil government of the Israelite people).

Let’s go further back though, Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote We must therefore distinguish three kinds of precept in the Old Law; viz. ‘moral’ precepts, which are dictated by the natural law; ‘ceremonial’ precepts, which are determinations of the Divine worship; and ‘judicial’ precepts, which are determinations of the justice to be maintained among men.

Even Saint Augustine, over 1500 years ago, made the differentiation clear, For example, ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is a moral precept; ‘Thou shalt circumcise every male on the eighth day’ is a symbolical precept.

In Genesis 17, God and Abraham made the first covenant between man and God of which circumcision was a symbolic (or ceremonial) distinction between the people that would be later known as the Jews or Hebrews. God and the Hebrews further reinforced or reinstated that covenant in the desert after the exodus from slavery in Egypt, much like our own covenant with Christ after we are baptized and profess our faith.

The law was put in place for a people He had just exposed His greatness to through the devastation brought upon Egypt in order to secure their freedom, through the parting of the sea in order to secure their safety, and then through the physical presence within the columns of cloud and fire that guided them through the desert, and the experience of the entire nation at the foot of Mount Sinai.

In contrast, we as believers, have a personal relationship with Christ.  We have been sanctified and reborn into this relationship.  Based on this change in status, the law (which is in place to convict unbelievers of their sin state).

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Romans 3:19-20

So what responsibility do we have to the Levitical Laws then?

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17

Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

Galatians 6:12-15

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Colossians 2:8-12

I would also encourage you to read the Romans 3 for more on the laws.  Now, the next logical step would be to argue that if the Levitical Laws were fulfilled by Christ and we are no longer bound by them, than all of them are null for a believer.  This is a mistruth – the moral laws as explained by Calvin, Turretin, and Aquinas are still valid.

But wait… we have died to the law and been risen with Christ.  Yep.  We are incapable of fulfilling the laws of God because they are perfect and we are not.  Christ fulfilled the law and has infinite righteousness is given freely to all in order to free us from the wages of sin (death).  So how do we rectify what parts of the law still apply and what parts we can do away with?

First – read Romans 1.

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 8:7-8

Now, consider this:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:19-23

Now, it doesn’t take a theologian to marry the two concepts.  If the mind is governed by the flesh and the acts of the flesh are obvious, then by not leaving the life of sin, the logical next step is clearly spelled out as you are trying to play both sides – you saying you believe in God while acting in open rebellion to Him.

A person, truly trusting and placing their faith in Christ, not only is saved, but begins to abhor sin and to purge it from their lives – this is not an easy or comfortable thing to do because it forces us to carefully examine ourselves.

My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.

Job 42:5-6

Here’s the real crux of what I’m trying to get to and taking a length time to get there (my apologies).  If you are feeling comfortable when you read the Bible’s moral laws, you have a problem.  Those laws are meant to convict us – to show us that speck in our eye where we need to improve. I highly encourage you to look more into this topic at Freedom from Sin, which will much more eloquently explain this topic.

The question I want to leave you with today is this – should Christianity be comfortable?

Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:23-24

 

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