Many "modern" pastors tell their flock that the Old Testament is no longer valid for today's Christian.
In fact, before we start, there is a small pamphlet that explains the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, and the Law for today's Christian. It is so well written, that there is no way to do it justice by paraphrasing it here. You can read here, or listen to the concept at Does God's Grace Blot Out His Law?.
The main thrust of the article is an expansion on Paul's comments in Romans 6:14-16
14For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. 15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey - whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
. Verse 14 has been twisted in so many ways by modern pastors that everyone thinks they have no law to follow, but they never seem to continue with verses 15-16. That is going to cost a lot of people their salvation.
Keeping people in the pews?
Modern Christian pastors and preachers have largely convinced their congregations to ignore what the first part of the Bible actually says. They say it is no longer valid for the modern Christian. While there have been some changes in the way we should think about the OT, we should not completely ignore the Old and "start fresh" with the New. Of course, if you want to, you can just forget about this promise from God:
9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)
For those intellectuals out there, a thousand generations at 25.5 years each (see ISOGG for the International Society of Genetic Genealogy method of calculation) is a little over 25,000 years, "slightly" more than the 6,000 or so we have been around. This assumes that the number of generations is linear and not calculated exponentially as the number of generations for each family involved. That number would be different and would reach 1000 generations much quicker, but would be counting far more than those "who love him and keep his commandments". Are you in one of those generations, or one of the other ones who think His commandments no longer matter?
Are you in the covenant with the commandment keepers?
If you are not paying attention to the Old Testament anymore, then you are not keeping His commandments that are so "deeply hidden" there, so you are not one with which He has to keep His covenant. Think about that for a minute. A site at Got Questions? wisely states:
"The Old Testament is foundational; the New Testament builds on that foundation with further revelation from God."
This means that the Old Testament is necessary to Christianity in the same way a foundation is still necessary to a house when you remodel the bedroom. If you throw away the old foundation, then you have to make a new one. Compared to the foundation of the Old Testament, any new foundation for Christianity will be like sand. Look at the number of churches that are all so very different because they are not using the Old Testament foundation to stabilize their undertanding of the mission of Jesus. Even Jesus used the foundation of the Old Testament whenever He quoted Scripture.
Feelings are not a foundation
Notice that we did not say that all we need are "warm, fuzzy feelings" to stay close to God, or that we no longer need to heed the will of God as it is clearly stated in the Old Testament. Jesus even reminded us that our very salvation depends on our doing God's will (Matthew 7:21
21Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
). Remember, we are repeatedly reminded that God never changes (Malachi 3:6
6 "I the LORD do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed."
). For those of you who say that this is only for the descendants of Jacob, aren't you forgetting that we all become "spiritual" Israel
14 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. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule - to the Israel of God. (Gal 6:14-16 NIV)
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. (Romans 4:16)
7Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. (Galatians 3:7)
when we truly believe and commit ourselves to Jesus? That makes us children of the ancestor of Jacob.
Are you a new creation on the old foundation, or are you building on some foundation that your church had to make up because they have discarded the old one? If you do not keep the will of the Father (seventh-day Sabbath, not mixing paganism with your worship as at Christmas and Easter, not eating "detestable" creatures, taking Jesus at all of His words instead of just a few your pastor chose while ignoring others, etc.), then your foundation is not on solid rock.
Old book, current ideas, sort of
A book discovered the other day surprised me. It is Israel and the New Covenant by Roderick Campbell. My surprise was actually twofold - the book was published in 1954 (actually started in 1941 and interrupted by the war) and it is full of statements like the following on page 10, third paragraph:
How then, it may be reasonably asked, do we explain the widespread rejection of the Christian message today? Perhaps the humbling truth is that Christendom has, in large part, abandoned the kind of Christianity which the Bible proclaims, and that those who turn away from the thing which they know as Christianity are wholly ignorant of what true Christianity really is.
And this was published 60 years ago! If you want to hear some old ideas that match the current state of the Christian church, click here or go to the page in the center menu called "Israel and the New Covenant".
They use the OT to teach, but don't follow it's rules?
Regarding my opening statement about modern pastors saying the Old Testament is no longer valid for us, this is not trying to paint all pastors in a bad light. It just seems they are prone to try to make it easy on the members of their church rather than have them actually read the entire Word of God and contemplate what it really says - and means. Yet, these same pastors make thousands of references to the Old Testament in their sermons when it suits their purpose. Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Psalms, Proverbs, and many other OT books are mentioned as foundational to understanding God.
The other day my wife and I were watching a program on TV showing Ray Comfort and a camera crew on a college campus reasoning with atheist students regarding the existence of God. While this effort is the very spreading of the Gospel that Jesus encouraged, it was Comfort's methods that caused some concern. One of the big points he made to the students is the importance of the ten commandments in guiding the behavior of the human race. After he convinced them that this life is no accident, he stressed the need for rules (the ten commandments) that keep the world in line - rules that Ray does not even keep himself.
Denying God's plan
Comfort wrote an article called Freedom From Sabbath-Keeping that you could once read on his site at Living Waters Publications. Actually, that page is no longer there. I just tried to click on it, and received a page not found error. The site is still there, but the article has been removed. It seems that another article mentioned in the next paragraph below may have made enough impact to have Ray Comfort article removed. That one is still there as of March 22, 2020.
This article by Comfort and his use of deceptive methods to convert people to his ideas is false teaching at its finest. It is a statement saying "Come to the salvation of God's world, but don't bother with the rules He makes for you." The point seems to be to convert atheists to Christianity in name only, then give them the same "freedom from God's law" that they already had, as atheists, before they converted.
Denying the denial
An excellent article that addresses the points in Ray Comfort's article can be found at Whole Bible Christianity. This article actually quotes many statments in Comfort's article so you can actually see what Comfort was saying. It shows how the Christian message can be distorted to mislead those who do not really know what the Bible is telling us. The best thing about this WholeBible.com article is that it does not use grand theological philosophy to point out the errors in Ray Comfort's view of Christianity. The comments by the author are made in common language with common sense as a foundation. Whew! Imagine that.
Back to those pastors who selectively use the Old Testament
When these pastors do not need these OT passages to make their specific point, they reject the entire OT as even being necessary for the modern Christian, claiming that it is only for the non-Messianic Jews (Israelites). Look at the changes we have made in what applies to us; Ten (or nine, now, without the Sabbath) Commandments, and Jewish Festivals replaced by pagan holidays of Christmas and Easter, etc. Of course, this topic has a million directions we can take, but the subject of this page is to consider what most "modern" Christians seem to think about the Old Testament and whether or not we still need it.
Why read it at all?
Think about this idea for a minute. If we are told, as we have been for centuries, that the OT no longer matters, then all structure for anything upon which we base our "new" understanding is gone. Now, in order to build a new foundation for our belief in the Creator and His Will, we must make up a new set of rules. Well, it would not likely be us, but some committee that decides for each group or church what does and does not apply. Were you involved in setting the rules for your congregation or denomination? How effective do you think you would be in even suggesting any changes, even if the pastors agreed that you were right?
Well, there is a passage you read all the time in the New Testament, but no one seems to remember (or realize in the first place) that it teaches that the law is something to add to the teachings of Jesus, not discard as no longer applicable to modern churches. Look at Matthew 13:52
52 He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."
. Can you guess Who the "He" is in this passage?
It is Jesus, speaking to His disciples (verse 36
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."
), immediately after asking them if they understood the parables He had just given to them. After reading the parables (go ahead, I'll wait), can you guess what the new and old treasures were that Jesus mentioned? Hint: they were the new teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven and the old laws from, you guessed it, the Old Testament.
"We don't need the OT any more..."
By today's "modern" standard, we would use only the New Testament to teach, ignoring the words of Jesus. Each person now decides what is and is not important (a misuse of Romans 14:5
5 Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
), torturing the real meaning of the whole verse
5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
as well as its subject matter (he was speaking of the necessity and manner of celebrating the feast days - a disputable matter, not speaking of the Sabbath or the fourth commandment). This "modern" Christian then bases a "new" faith on his personal interpretation of what matters and what does not. We should be careful to remember the warning from Proverbs 3:5
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
Well, that leaning "on our own understanding", or more accurately, someone else's mis-understanding, is precisely what we have been doing for about the last 1900 years. How has that worked out for us? What we see now is a world full of so many churches with so many different beliefs, no one has any claim on the truth. If you don't like what another church believes, you just claim that they don't have the Holy Spirit and that settles it. Of course, they say the same thing about your church and that settles it. Who is right? How do you tell?
What is "true"?
What determines whether something is true or not? Most people say "the Word of God" is the final word on this subject. Of course, there are those of us who feel that any word that God has ever spoken is the final word on the matter. Others say that God has evidently "changed" His mind on some things. Some feel that God meant one thing in the OT, but evidently these people think that He must have made some sort of mistake back then. Either that or He finally figured out that we "modern" Christians are either too smart to need written instructions or are too stupid or too stubborn to understand written instructions, so why bother?
Since they think that, these people act as if it is OK to ignore what God says in the OT and make up their own rules - the New Truth. If forced to make a determination as to why some (many, most?) new Christians think we are no longer bound by the written Word of God, it would be to say that we humans just don't like being told what to do by anyone - not even God. Hence, the New Truth.
Just a bunch of people fighting
In a recent discussion with my wife, it became apparent that many see the Old Testament as filled with violence and fear, so it cannot mean the same thing as the New Testament which emphasizes peace and love (of course, this is only if you ignore the beheadings, "crucifixions", and stonings). In her view, there can be no relationship between the two testaments because you cannot fear and love God at the same time.
Now, this does not mean fear as in respect, but fear as in if we deliberately disobey we will be punished. My wife's stand is the same as saying that if we love God, we will not be punished no matter what we do against His will. This is likely not what she really thinks or means, but without qualifying the stand, it is the bottom line of what she says.
How about a different point of view?
As an update, in November 2016 we purchased a Bible that was new to the market in September 2016 called The Complete Jewish Study Bible. This book has been edited by a Messianic Jew (David Stern) and relates the stories of the incidents in both the Old and New Testaments from the viewpoint of a Jew in culture, history, and language. The words are still translated directly from the Hebrew and Greek texts, but the notes are his. Within a week of reading our daily readings from that Bible, we began to see the truth from the Bible as it was seen by those who wrote it.
The point? One of the most notable statements made by the editor of this new Bible is that we cannot use the New Testament to discard the Old Testament (or Covenant) because there are actually 7 covenants, not just two. Each of them adds promises (some conditional, some unconditional, and some both) to a previous covenant and does not replace the previous one.
Well, some say that Jeremiah 31:31-34
31 "The days are coming," declares the Lord,
"when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,"
declares the Lord.
33 "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time," declares the Lord.
"I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, 'Know the Lord,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,"
declares the Lord.
"For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."
removes the Old Testament from the "New" Covenant. There is absolutely no Biblical basis for this claim. Instead, the Jeremiah Bible passage (any version) actually says in those verses that the Old Covenant laws will be written in our hearts - no, wait. If you read the passages, you see that this New Covenant is with the Israelites and Judah. That means that the laws will be written in their hearts. The only way we Gentiles can get in on someone else's covenant is to become like them, and then follow the rules of that covenant. That is what Galatians 3:7
7Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.
That means that we can't just say that the Old Testament is gone, since the important parts are within us and say the same things they did on paper, parchment, or stone. It is hard to get away from that no matter how liberal your views. That is, unless you just need to soften the word of God to the point where we just determine that our fate is decided by our own will, not His. Many people are going to be surprised when they stand before the Lord. Our studies in this Bible have verified that this whole concept makes perfect sense.
Old Covenants that still apply
What was that? Yeah, yeah, so you say, but let's look at the facts. The first covenant was the Adamic one, then the Noahic covenant, then the Abrahamic covenant, then the Palestinian, then the one with Moses, then the one with David, then the one with the Messiah (See the page called "Covenants" for my views on this list).
Now, if you think that there are only two, one of which is gone, which six of these will you eliminate? If you say that the Old Testament no longer matters, then God does not have to keep any of those six "old" covenants. If He doesn't keep those six covenants, then He will break His word to all of those people as well as to us. If He does that, then He is not the God described in the Bible.
We don't need the Old anymore?
The trouble is that most pastors only use the Old Testament to pass on some story with a moral, but without much regard to what God told all of us throughout the OT and how that should affect our relationship with Him.
Paul, in the New Testament, makes some statements that are interpreted differently by different people based on what they have been told by their pastor, with little or no regard to how that interpretation fits with the rest of Scripture. Most of today's Christians say that, according to Paul, we no longer have to pay attention to the Old Testament. But, what about 1 Corinthians 9:19-23? (especially verse 21):
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (emphasis mine)
Wait, did he really say that?
How do we reconcile the parenthetical statements in verses 20 and 21? He is clearly faithful to Christ, but he does not deny the will of God. He is not under the law, but at the same time is not free from God's law. Christ's law and God's law are the same law. All of Paul's statements were made with the foundation of the Old Testament, enhanced by the coming of Jesus. Some of these "new" church interpretations, supposedly attributed to Paul, result in actions by many people that are called sin elsewhere in the Bible.
For example, in Deuteronomy 12:1-4 God describes very quickly what His people must do and what they must not do to be in compliance with His Word and His Will. He then warns us through Moses in verse 8 not to make up stuff on your own and why you shouldn't:
1 These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess - as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. 4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way.
5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.
8 You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit, 9 since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 12:1-9)
Are we His people, or one of "them"?
Did you catch that the Israelites are not to "worship the Lord your God in their way"? Now, either we worship God in the way He describes in the Bible, or we are the "they" He said not to emulate. So, while we are told not to do what we are doing today, what are most people doing about it? They discard the Old Testment so they don't have to worry about warnings like that in verses 8 and 9 in the box above. That shouldn't cause any problems on Judgment Day, right?
Can't lose our salvation?
We often hear that "we are saved and cannot lose our salvation". Well, the passages above sound like a warning that if you wander outside the guidelines He is setting for us, you may not reach that place you seek, "since you have not yet reached the resting place" (verse 8 above). Did this warning fade into nothingness in the New Testament? Have you reached your resting place? If the Old Testament no longer applies, can we ignore this warning? (Just for grins, see Hebrews 10:26-27
26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
and 2 Peter 2:20
20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.
Can we take a pagan holiday, use their same symbols and names (think Easter), and use it to worship God? Some imply or even state outright that it is OK since that warning is from the Old Testament, and that we are trying to "save" or "Christianize" people with the celebration. Check out Jeremiah 10:2
2 This is what the LORD says: "Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them."
and following. Would either Paul or Jesus celebrate Easter or Christmas? Why or why not?
Having approached pastors on this issue and expressed my concern, they replied that "If the people do not know that they are ignoring what God wants or do not know that they are actually sinning by doing what God has banned, I do not want to make them responsible by explaining it to them." In other words, what they don't know won't hurt them. I guess they have not read Leviticus 5:17
17If anyone sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord's commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible.
. Well, that's the Old Testament, so He probably doesn't really mean it, right?
"It's not a hard rule, is it?"
It's not as if the pastor doesn't know what is going on. It is either just too uncomfortable to explain it, or the congregations are supposedly not responsible if they remain ignorant, or maybe he is afraid that he will lose church members if he tells them the truth. But what does Jeremiah 23:1-6
1 'Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!' declares the Lord. 2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: 'Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,' declares the Lord. 3 'I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,' declares the Lord.
5 'The days are coming,' declares the Lord,
'when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.'
say? If the bad shepherd is never replaced and the people are led to sin because they decide to follow error, they don't have a chance.
For those of you who think it will just be the leaders who will be punished, what do you think happens to those who listen to them? Jeremiah was arguing with the king's "prophets" in Jeremiah 27, and after they called Jeremiah a liar, he was told by God to give a message to the people in verses 9 and 10:
9 So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your interpreters of dreams, your mediums or your sorcerers who tell you, 'You will not serve the king of Babylon.' 10 They prophesy lies to you that will only serve to remove you far from your lands; I will banish you and you will perish. (Jeremiah 27:9-10)
And if you need something from the New Testament, check out Matthew 23:15
15Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
. That was Jesus speaking to the Pharisees. We all have to figure out who is lying, and then stop listening to them. If we don't, we will face the consequences of our actions.
But, is that what he said?
Take Paul, for example, in 1 Corinthians. Paul relates a quotation in 1 Corinthians 6:12
12 "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (KJV)"
, quoted here from the King James version. Many take the first part of this to heart, as though it is straight from God's mouth, but they do not even consider what Paul says after that - even after Paul explains that very thing in the next 6 verses. They even go so far as to state outright that we can do pretty much anything we want as long as we "love Jesus". But, if you read the same verse from the NIV:
12"I have the right to do anything," you say - but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything" - but I will not be mastered by anything. (NIV)
Kind of puts a different light on the statement, doesn't it?
Does what we believe fit the Bible?
How does that fit with Deuteronomy 12:8
8 You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit,
? Now, when was the last time that you heard a pastor explain that this quote from 1 Corinthians 6:12
12 "I have the right to do anything," you say - but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything" - but I will not be mastered by anything. (NIV)
, this time quoted from the more accurate NIV, was not from God, or even from Scripture. Paul was quoting some members of a church who thought they had unlimited freedom, with no basis in the Word. Yet, because of the poor interpretation of this and other verses, you hear people every day say that they are not bound by any rules as long as they "love Jesus".
Let's think about this for a minute from the "modern" Christian view. "Everyone knows" (tongue-in-cheek, please) that Paul is a big proponent of not following the Law, right? (that would be the Ten Commandments and much of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. See Exodus 20, for those of you who need a reference). And "everyone knows" that if Paul ever speaks of one of the "old" Jewish Festivals, he must be talking about the old way of doing things, right? You know, something meant for the Pharisees or the Sadducees that don't believe that Jesus is the Messiah. After all, once Jesus died for us, there is no more need for those Old Testament feasts, sacrifices, or keeping those tedious Ten Commandments, right? Well, if that's the case, how do you explain what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 5:8
8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul is speaking to a mostly Gentile church, checking up on their progress. He found that they have a brother in their midst who is doing one of those supposedly "permissible" things that are not beneficial for either the brother or the church that appears to be condoning his actions. Now, referring again to his statement in 6:12
12 "I have the right to do anything," you say - but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything" - but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV)
, if you read the notes in the NIV text, this statement "Everything is permissible for me" is in quotes because Paul is quoting some members of that congregation who feel that they have a right to do anything they please. This is not a statement from God, and Paul's text is explaining how this reasoning is dangerous.
In 1 Corinthians 5:8
8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
, Paul is speaking to the same Gentiles about keeping the Passover Feast and the following Feast of Unleavened Bread. He is recommending that they (the Gentiles) keep it in all sincerity, just like the Jews do. Now, Paul is a Jew. Nowhere in the New Testament have you ever heard the "OT" Jews criticize Paul for not following the law, as he himself has proudly stated often (see Acts 24:14
14However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets,"
, Acts 25:8
8 Then Paul made his defense: "I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar."
). He keeps all the laws, even going so far as to circumcise a brother (Timothy, Acts 16:3
3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
), who is half Greek, just to satisfy the Jews so he and Timothy together can be accepted in the synagogues. However, these Jewish Feasts that Paul also kept required animal sacrifices to stay within the requirements of the Law.
So, is Paul following God's rules in keeping the Festivals, including sacrifices, or is he violating the command of God, which the non-Messianic Pharisees would have accused him of doing if he had not followed the laws? Both of these cannot be true.
Pastors leading the flock astray?
Yeah, here come the complaints now. You just can't believe that your pastor would let you believe anything that contradicted the Bible. But look at what the Bible actually says! Now, it's unlikely that the Gentiles were expected to sacrifice exactly the same way the way the Jews did, but how do you know that they didn't already practice some sort of sacrifices? Paul himself stated to the Gentiles in 1 Corinthians 10:20-22:
20 "But that which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not wish you to have fellowship with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and the table of demons. 22 Now do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?".
Granted, Paul speaks the truth in many passages about the sacrifices not providing full redemption, and not even being effective for salvation, but this sacrifice ritual was still a command from God, and likely had nothing to do with redemption for sin. Remember, even the sin sacrifices never did any permanent good even when the Israelites practiced them before Christ came. And, not all of the required sacrifices pertained to sin.
There were burnt, reparation, purification, and fellowship offerings that had nothing to do with sin. They performed the same functions at the time of Christ, even at the time of Paul after Christ's death, that they did in the Old Testament (Hebrews 10:1-2
1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming - not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. (emphasis mine)
). The only reason they stopped was the destruction of the only place where they were allowed to perform them in 70 A.D. Nothing has changed in God's requirements.
"That can't be because I don't want it that way..."
You can't just discount the word of God because it does not fit into your viewpoint. And as much as most people do not want to hear it, this practice was still required by God of His people at the time of Paul's writings. The sacrifices were not ended until the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., and then only because they no longer had a proper place to do it.
Sure, God may have allowed that destruction because He was disgusted with the way they were performing the rituals without putting their hearts into it. Most of you believe that Jesus' death "automatically" ended this practice with no pronouncement from God or statement from Jesus to that effect. You think that has affected all the Jewish Festivals for Jews who believe in Jesus as well. How do you justify those statements? You might want to find out for sure, and you won't find that justification in the Bible.
Paul was not chastised for being a bad Jew
Why didn't the Jews stone Paul for not following the law instead of just ignoring him as one of the Way? Why didn't they call him on the carpet? Because he was still following God's rules for the Festivals - all of them. Why else would he advise the Corinthians to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (1 Corinthians 5:8
8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
). Again, Paul knew that Jesus was the new Mediator between man and God. He knew that the sacrifices did nothing for man's salvation. But, God had never told them to stop the sacrifices or to quit following the law.
Carrying on man's traditions
Just believing something you were told by your pastor does not make it true. He learned it from someone else who believed it, and they had no foundation for that statement either. We need some references that show that these practices were actually concluded by God or Jesus, but those references are not there in the Word. We must either face and handle these facts, or we are just wishing that they were not true. That may make us feel better, but how far do we go in making things up?
A new temple for Jesus - with sacrifices?
For some additional thoughts that will show you that this concept is not so far off base, Ezekiel wrote about a new temple starting in Chapter 40 that was to be built that has not yet been built. Some think this temple is to be the one from which Jesus will rule the earth during the Millennium. Whatever the use or purpose of the temple, there are provisions in the design of the temple for animal sacrifices as described in the chapters following 40.
OK, this is not proof of anything yet, but God does not give prophecy that does not eventually happen, unless it is conditional. Unless God really did not give Ezekiel these instructions, we have to assume there is a purpose for this temple. Since it has not been built yet, and no prophecy is a valid word of God if it does not come true or is revoked by God Himself, we must determine the truth of anything Ezekiel has said based on the outcome of this prophecy. I tend to believe he knew whereof he spoke (well...O.K., wrote).
How do we know who we should listen to?
Here are some points that always seem to push people's emotions to the boiling point instead of generate curiosity about why anyone would even say such a dastardly thing:
Worship the God
1. In Revelation, John speaks in Chapter 13 about the Beast out of the sea, the Beast out of the Earth, and the image to the beast. These "Beasts" and "image" require everyone's worship or those who refuse to worship are to be killed. Now, immediately after this description of end-time worship demands comes a message in Chapter 14 from the three angels telling us Who
we should really worship. What no one seems to notice is that this message gives us a clue as to how
we should properly worship as well. Read verse 7 to the end:
6Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth - to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."
A significant part of verse 7 in the NIV version comes right from Exodus 20:11
11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
, right out of the fourth commandment - the one about the Sabbath. The Creator of the universe clearly established the correct way to worship Him, told us how to do it in the Old Testament
, and John points us back to it when it really matters. He even reminds us what happens to those who do not pay attention in Revelation 14:11-12
11 "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." 12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
- they get no rest. Since the Sabbath is all about rest, it appears that those who don't want to take advantage of the commanded rest, well, they will get none. This stuff is not just popping out of thin air - God wrote it through people!
Worship Him on His days
2. What about Christmas? Any sort of study into the time of the birth of Christ places it sometime in the Spring (March/April), not the dead of winter. Also, birthday celebrations were as pagan and superstitious as they get. December 25th? Rev. Alexander Hislop wrote in chapter 3 of his book Two Babylons
"In Egypt, the son of Isis, the Egyptian title for the queen of heaven, was born at this very time, "about the time of the winter solstice". The very name by which Christmas is popularly known among ourselves - "Yule-day" - proves at once its Pagan and Babylonian origin. "Yule " is the Chaldee name for an "infant" or "little child;" and as the 25th of December was called by our Pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors, "Yule-day," or the "Child's day," and the night that preceded it, " Mother-night," long before they came in contact with Christianity, that sufficiently proves its real character.
A famous Sunday-keeping apologist, John MacArthur, actually admits on his website Grace To You
that even though they know this "holiday" started out Pagan, they have a good reason to con (sorry, but yes, con, as in deceive) people in to believing what is not true - they claim that they are trying to save them for Christ (color added to bottom paragraph in the box a couple of paragraphs below for emphasis). How do you convert people to believe in God and His Son while you are telling them not to listen to what He says?
It's O.K. to listen to people express themselves and their opinions, but we should be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11
11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
and make sure their opinions match the truth in the Bible.
Pagan ways are, well, pagan
This is not meant to accuse them of bad motives, but the reasons they give for celebrating "in the way of the pagans" are not Biblical, and bring the unsuspecting Christian into close association with things that God condemns. Remember that much of the world celebrates "Christ"mas, even those who do not believe in Christ, and joining in this celebration with "Christians" is not bringing them closer to Christ. In fact, just the opposite happens as many Christians are drawn into the mood of commercialism, "gimme, gimme", and the financial danger of the season. Also, please note that he does not give any of the credit (rightly so) for this "holiday" to God who designed the original holy days (from Grace To You showing John MacArthur's stand):
"December 25 is the traditional anniversary of the birth of Christ, but most scholars are unsure about the true date for Christ's birth.
The decision to celebrate Christmas on December 25 was made sometime during the fourth century by church bishops in Rome. They had a specific reason for doing so.
Having turned long ago from worshiping the one true God and creator of all things, many early cultures in the Roman empire had fallen into sun worship. Recognizing their dependence on the sun's yearly course in the heavens, they held feasts around the winter solstice in December when the days are shortest. As part of their festivals, they built bonfires to give the sun god strength and bring him back to life again. When it became apparent that the days were growing longer, there would be great rejoicing.
The church leaders in Rome decided to celebrate Christ's birth during the winter solstice in an attempt to Christianize these popular pagan celebrations. For the most part their efforts failed to make the people conform, and the heathen festivities continued. Today we find ourselves left with a bizarre marriage of pagan and Christian elements that characterizes our modern celebration of Christmas.
Regardless of the pagan background of so many December traditions, and whether or not Jesus was born on December 25th, our goal is still to turn the eyes of all men upon the true Creator and Christ of Christmas. The light of the world has come. And the Christmas season and celebration presents the church with a wonderful opportunity to preach the good news - that men can be made righteous and have peace with God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ."
Notice the word used in the opening line of the box above - "traditional". Remember what Jesus said in Mark 7:9:
9And he continued, "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"
So, according to a millionaire Sunday-keeping pastor who is trusted by millions, now it is OK to set aside the commands of God in favor of man's traditions, and violate God's Word, the Ninth of the Ten Commandments, by bearing false witness. We can now, according to John MacArthur, tell a lie (that it is O.K. with God for Christians to join a pagan celebration), and tell people to celebrate in a way God said not to do, in order to convince someone of something else that is true. MacArthur already advocates the breaking of the fourth commandment. Somehow, after God told us (in the Old Testament, by the way) never to worship in the same manner as the pagans do (Deuteronomy 12:4, 30-31, Jeremiah 10:2)
4 You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. (Deuteronomy 12:4)
30 and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same. 31 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. (Deut 12:30-31)
2 This is what the LORD says: "Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them. (Jeremiah 10:2)
, this doesn't seem very wise.
And, if that's not enough...
3. Now for Easter. Just plain, outright common sense tells you that bunnies and eggs have not only nothing to do with each other, but they have nothing to do with Christ and His Resurrection. Rabbits are not even considered clean animals by God (Leviticus 11:6
6The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you.
A pastor in a Sunday Church service we attended the other day mentioned that they were planning an Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday. He said that he knew this was a sore subject with some, but he offered this explanation as justification for the "celebration". He said that the egg, though we refer to it as a single item, actually has three parts, the white, the yolk, and the shell. In this way, he said, it represents the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), so we see it as a symbol of God.
OK, so let's say that we accept (reluctantly, and only for the purpose of this example) this rewrite of Pagan tradition, what about the bunnies? How are we to see this as anything as a "Christian" rewrite of a Pagan fertility celebration, and even take their name for it - the name of a fertility goddess - Ashtoreth (also called Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos, Aphrodite, Astarte, Demeter, Hathor, Ishtar, Kali, and Ostara)? Isn't that like saying "the Holidays" instead of "Christmas" in order to get past the political correctness? Don't even get me started on that.
The Passover is important to Gentiles as well
Why do we have to try so hard to deliberately ignore the real reason for the season - the Passover? You know, the expectation of being passed over during the wrath of God in the end times. God set up a perfectly valid holiday that we "sort of" celebrate several times a year instead of the one time of the year He intended for us to do it. I mean, we already "keep" it (Communion, or the Lord's Supper), so I am not suggesting we do anything Jewish or anything... After all, isn't the reason to worship God so that we get the benefit of the "Passover" when it comes time for the wrath of God? Oh, sorry, that must be too deep and symbolic for us pew people to understand.
The Ultimate Test
Now, it seems that the final test of this matter would be the question that everyone thinks reveals the final word on the matter. Usually the asking of this particular question reveals only what the person asking it really wants to do, but let's give it a try. Easter is named after a pagan god, is held on a day not always related to the Passover, celebrates the antithesis of the meaning of the Resurrection and salvation, and is a perfect example of worshipping our God in the manner of the pagans (which He told us never to do). The question? "What would Jesus do?" Would Jesus celebrate Easter?
Old vs New
This reasoning also applies to the seventh-day Sabbath and Christmas, as well as Easter. Nowhere will you find that God or Jesus had anything to do with the move to Sunday. He never commanded the establishment of a birthday as a day of worship even for Jesus. And, He certainly did not rename His salvation Holiday (Passover) to a Pagan day and changing its date to as much as a month earlier or later than His Holy Day. Passover is April 22 in 2016, with resurrection Sunday being April 24th, and Easter was on March 27, before Passover instead of being the Resurrection day on the first Sunday following the correct day. Still think you are celebrating the way God said to do? These changes happened after the apostles all died, and that means the change could only have been done by a man or men.
So, the Old way was set up by God. Nothing different in the New way was set up by God. If we dig really deep into our beliefs, there was something way back there that says something like - "I believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ. I will not be like the rest of the world." And we have some examples like Joshua, who said:
15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)
A last shot over the bow, if you will (but at least, this site is telling us the truth so people can see for themselves). A site at Church at Home, says:
The Love of God and the Law of God
"Learn Not the Way of the Heathen"
Can Christians really worship the true God using
"Christianized" pagan holidays?
The holidays observed by mainstream Christianity - Easter, Christmas, New Years, Halloween, etc. - are not commanded in the Scriptures. In fact, as is easily proven from history, those very holidays are pagan in origin. Yet, those who observe them claim to be worshiping the true God. They rationalize that He now accepts such worship.
But the Scriptures do not support these assertions. God says, "I am the LORD , I change not " (Mal. 3:6). And again, the New Testament declares: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8). Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, affirms that Christians cannot worship the true God with pagan, occult rituals and holidays. He writes: "But that which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not wish you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord, and the table of demons. Now do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?" (I Cor. 10:20-22).
As we will see, the same pagan holidays that were celebrated by the apostate children of Israel and Judah thousands of years before Christ are the same days apostate Orthodox Christendom hallows today. Yet, God has commanded His people to not learn the way of the heathen: "Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD , 'Do not learn the way of the heathen [occult practices and the worship of false gods], and do not be terrified at the signs of the heavens [as in astrology and witchcraft]; for the nations are terrified at them' " (Jer. 10:1-2).
But, you say, "The OT is only for the Israelites"
You hear this one all the time. Even my wife tells me this every time we get into a discussion. She says that when the OT is saying anything about what God wants for His people, it is all about the Israelites, and only the Israelites. But, when the NT speaks, it is about everyone - Jews and Gentiles both. Well, I agree with the second part - "kind of".
My question is, "When Paul speaks of all scripture being 'God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness' in 2 Timothy 3:16
16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
, does he mean for the Israelites only?" What are the scriptures that he uses for reference by making this statement? At the time this verse was written he was speaking of the Old Testament, the only written "scriptures" of the time. So, how can this be for the Israelites only if Paul is the "Apostle to the Gentiles", and is saying that these scriptures are for everyone's use? The Old Testament is for the Gentiles as well.
Yep, the promise is only for God's people
There is an excellent explanation of the Jew/Gentile relationship at Gentiles Must Become Israelites that is a bit long, but very clear. If you are honest, you must take time to consider this point from that page:
Jews within the Roman and Parthian Empires who lived at the time were certainly of the tribe of Judah who were a part of the House of Israel. It meant that salvation could be given to them, but it could not be given to Gentiles IF THEY REMAINED GENTILES! In the 33 years of time that elapsed from Christ's crucifixion in 30 to 63 C.E., it was necessary for all Gentiles who were saved in Christ to become spiritual Israelites. The New Covenant relationship with God was given only to those who were members of the House of Israel and the House of Judah (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Note what the clear word of God states:
"Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband unto them, says the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;
After those days, says the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
- Jeremiah 31:31-34, (italics mine)
As clear as God could make it, the New Covenant was to be made only with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. There is not one mention in this New Covenant relationship about participation of Gentiles who were not Israelites. And what did this lack of mention concerning Gentiles mean to the apostle Paul? He made it clear that salvation in Christ could only be given to the children of Israel and no other nation. Note what Paul said in Ephesians chapter 2:
11"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (which is done in the body by human hands) - 12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world."
But, hold on a minute...the Gentiles have hope!
Paul made it clear in the above statement, which was absolutely true and accurate, that as long as Gentiles remained Gentiles, there was not a hope in the world for them to gain a salvation in Christ. They were those "having no hope." Remember, the Old and New Covenants were made only with the House of Israel and if one was not an Israelite then such persons were "foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world." This was a terrible plight for Gentiles to be in, but this was their fate. Simply put, Gentiles could not be saved.
However, there came to be hope, and indeed, even a victory for the Gentiles. A legal way was found that could get Gentiles saved along with the Israelites. This was by grafting Gentiles into the stock of Israel so that they no longer would be reckoned as Gentiles. This was the manner in which Gentiles could be called the children of Abraham and the Israel of God, and be accepted for salvation like the other Israelites. And Paul, in the four epistles to the first three ekklesias (the congregations in Romans, Corinthians and Galatians) taught that all Gentiles who accepted Christ as their personal Savior were now reckoned to be "in Christ" (Romans 12:5, 16:7, 9-10
5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (12:5)
7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
8 Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.
9 Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.
10 Greet Apelles, whose fidelity to Christ has stood the test.
Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. (Rom 16:7-19)
; 1 Corinthians 3:1, 15:22
1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly - mere infants in Christ. (1 Cor 3:1)
22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Cor 15:22) (NIV)
; 2 Corinthians 1:21, 3:14, 5:17
21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, (2 Cor 1:21)
14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It (the veil) has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. (2 Cor 3:14)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Cor 5:17) (NIV)
; Galatians 3:27
27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (NIV)
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
Now, part of the family
Putting Gentiles "in Christ" gave them an advantage they had not realized before. Since Christ was clearly reckoned in a legal sense to be from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Jacob's name was changed to Israel), then Gentiles now attached to Christ were no longer acknowledged as "Gentiles" in a spiritual sense. They had now become "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16
16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule--to the Israel of God. (NIV)
Similarly, Paul said in Romans 11:13-36 that the Gentiles being "in Christ" (and Christ was an Israelite in whom there was no guile and a legitimate son of Abraham) made them also to be children of Abraham and Israel as was Christ or any natural born Israelite. And since it was clearly understood by Paul that "all Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:26
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (NIV)
), this of necessity includes the Gentiles who accepted Christ and were grafted into Israel, but only after Jesus has turned ungodliness away from them so that they can belong to true Israel. Thus, these Gentile "converts" are no longer reckoned as Gentiles. Again, they were now "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16
16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule--to the Israel of God. (NIV)
This was how the Gentiles could become partakers of all promises and covenants that pertained to the Israelites. This grafting into the stock of Israel made them able to be heirs of the New Covenant relationship that God was making only with Israel.
With the same responsibilities
In the word of God, this is best stated in Ephesians 2:11-22:
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (which is done in the body by human hands) 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
For those of you who want to jump on the words here in verse 15 and say, "See? He did away with the law!", take a look at Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers or Meyer's NT Commentary, both at Bible Hub. This verse is explained as doing away with the "letter of the law" as practiced by the Jews, and the enmity it caused between the Gentiles and the Jews, while invoking the "spirit of the law" as described by Jesus. This allows the statement of Paul in Romans 3:31
Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
to remain valid.
"Replacement" Theology? Not likely...
To further clarify, the NIV study notes for verses 2:14-15 above state this:
2:14 the two Believing Jews and believing Gentiles. barrier...dividing wall Possibly an allusion to the barricade in the Jerusalem temple area that marked the the limit to which a Gentile might go. It is used here to describe the total religious isolation Jews and Gentiles experienced from each other. hostility, Between Jews and Gentiles.
2:15 abolishing...the law. Since Mt 5:17 and Romans 3:31 teach that God's moral standard expressed in the OT law is not changed by the coming of Christ, what is abolished here is probably the effect of the specific "commandments and regulations" in separating Jews from Gentiles, whose nonobservance of the Jewish law renders them ritually unclean (cf. Col 2:13-14). in his flesh. Probably refers to the death of Christ (cf. note on Romans 8:3). one new man. The united body of believers, the church.
Actually, the new Complete Jewish Study Bible (CJSB) states the meaning of the text of Ephesians 2:15 much more clearly:
15 by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances. He did this in order to create in union with himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom,
By joining the two groups together, he nullified the conflict between them, pulling them all under the same umbrella. This wording makes the notes in the NIV make more sense as well.
Not replacing, but joining together
Some seem to think that instead of God bringing the Gentiles into the fold by grafting them to the True Vine, He evidently "relieved" the Messianic Jews of all their tough rules, without any notice or announcement, and set them free of any law because of their belief in Christ. The Bible actually says, by announcement through Paul (Romans 11:17
17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,
) and others, that we believing Gentiles are now brought into the ecclesia of God's people Israel, not the other way around. And note that the verse in Romans 11:17 says that some of the branches have been broken off, so not all of the Jews have been "left behind" as many pastors say they are (see Replacement Theology for more).
In this way, we are to receive with them the promise He made to them. Those Jews not willing to accept Christ lost their access by being disobedient and disbelieving, so we have been grafted in - if we believe in Christ. However, there are still some rules that we must obey, or even we will not be allowed in.
That is the exact message of the wedding feast from Matthew 22:1-14
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4 "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'
5 "But they paid no attention and went off - one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, 'How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?' The man was speechless.
13 "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
14 "For many are invited, but few are chosen."
. The man who did not follow the "rules" for attending was thrown out. And, not just out, but bound hand and feet and thrown into the darkness where there is suffering going on. How do you explain that if you think we no longer have any rules to follow?
The Old Testament still belongs to all believers
The bottom line here is that, if we believing Gentiles are now Israelites because we are truly "in Christ", then we are part of everything that God the Father and Christ the Son had in mind for Israel - both the love and the law. This means that we don't get to say "we don't have to do that because Christ does it for us" unless that means the Israelites get to say it as well. Does anyone think that God does not expect the Jews to do special activities like the Sabbath, Festivals, or ceremonies and separate themselves from the world while still living in it? These are shadows of things yet to come, and a result of covenants that were to be "forever" or "everlasting":
60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. (Ezekiel 16:60)
Anything in the Old Testament that pertains to the Israelites also pertains to us "ex-Gentiles" as well. To me, that means that if some want to keep their status as Gentiles, then they are out of the family (Ephesians 2:19-20
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
If ignoring the word of God is what we do by not using the Old Testament foundation provided by the Creator, I would rather include the OT in my faith and worship. Where do we think that Malachi and Jeremiah put these things so we could find them? Where do we think Paul got those things he wrote down for us to see again? Isn't the Old Testament what Paul and others meant by "the scriptures" that we need to keep us in line with God's will? If we do not read the OT, we will miss all the foundations for what the New Testament teaches.
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