In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., today being MLK day, it seems appropriate to discuss some of the implications of the gospel in terms of race relations. As shocking as it may sound, I grew up in a city that allowed no African Americans. In fact, I did not see a person of color until I was twelve years old. But in high school, when I read Black Like Me, it changed me. The gross injustices done to people just because of the color of their skin sickened me. And then I moved to the South and saw the same injustices that I had read about in this book. I was appalled that so many people could be so prejudiced. While in seminary, my wife and I bought a house for one dollar (part of the Urban Homestead Renewal Program), in one of the worst slums of Dallas. We lived in it for three and a half years. And I saw a different side of things. I saw a single mom with two young boys, working several jobs to give her sons a better chance at life. I saw people who desperately wanted to get out of their miserable state but were hardly given the chance to succeed. And I saw those who exploited them. From Newport Beach to the Oak Cliff section of Dallas was quite a shift! And so, I began a journey to understand what the New Testament taught about race relations. Below are some of my reflections.
Although Jesus was sent to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10.6; 15.24), his ministry occasionally expanded beyond Jewish bloodlines. Sometimes this happened seemingly against his protests, as when he exorcized a demon possessing the daughter of a Canaanite woman at her insistence (Matt 15.21–28). At other times he was amazed at the faith of Gentiles when compared to its lack in his own people. He healed the centurion’s servant sight unseen, based on the centurion’s faith (Matt 8.5–13), hinting that such people will supersede the nation in the kingdom and “the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out” (v. 12). And he made an intentional detour to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee to cast out a legion of demons from a Gerasene man (Mark 5.1–20). Simeon had prophesied about the baby Jesus that he would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2.32), hinting at a transracial mission of the Messiah. When Jesus himself implied such a radical mission in his hometown, the good folk of Nazareth tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4.20–30)!
After his resurrection, Jesus in fact commissioned his apostles to evangelize Gentiles (Matt 28.19–20), which they then promptly neglected to do. Then Peter got a startling vision from the Lord to kill and eat unclean animals. Three times the vision and the instructions came: “What God has made clean, you must not consider unclean!” (Acts 10.15). When Peter goes to the house of the Gentile Cornelius he reiterates his Jewish scruples: “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile,” then adds how his mind was changed: “but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean” (Acts 10.28 [NRSV]). It seems remarkable that even after all that Peter had seen of Jesus’ ministry to Gentiles, and especially after he was commissioned by the Lord to evangelize Gentiles, he still didn’t get it. Later, when he was back in Jerusalem, he was confronted by some of the more scrupulous Jewish Christians who accused him of eating with Gentiles (Acts 11.4). Guilty as charged. So, he repeated the account of his vision and the conversion of Cornelius and his family. These Jewish Christians dropped their complaint and exclaimed, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles!” (Acts 11.18). The scrupulous sect of Jewish believers had seen the light that Simeon spoke of! Or so it seemed.
Some time after this, Peter was in Antioch, eating with Gentiles. But he withdrew from such fellowship when messengers from James came from Jerusalem and spoke to him. What they said is unknown, but Peter withdrew from such fellowship with Gentiles “because he was afraid of those who were pro-circumcision” (Gal 2.13 [NET]). Paul was incensed because Peter, his Jewish Christian colleagues, and even Barnabas, “were not on the right road toward the truth of the gospel” (Gal 2.14 [translation by G. D. Kilpatrick in Rudolf Bultmann’s Festschrift (1954)]). Here we see a glimpse that, for Paul, the suspension of circumcision and dietary regulations was an essential part of “the truth of the gospel” (τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου). And it is here that we begin to see which of the apostles first grasped the transracial implications of the gospel. Even though the Eleven had been taught this by Jesus, they faltered. And even after Peter’s vision, he faltered. And the group of pro-circumcision believers back in Jerusalem, even after hearing from Peter that the gospel was now free for all, faltered. They would falter again, in Acts 15.5, prompting the Jerusalem Council that would take place sometime after the events in Antioch.
It takes little imagination to see how wrenching and disgusting that first act of obedience to the Lord would be—obedience to extend full fellowship to non-Jews. All Jews in first-century Palestine would be quite familiar with the story of heroism and sacrifice found in 2 Maccabees 7. There, seven brothers and their mother were brought before Antiochus Epiphanes who tried to force them to eat pork. One by one, the king tortured each brother, cutting out their tongues and hands. Yet none disobeyed the Law of Moses, dying with the hope of the resurrection on their lips. Finally, the mother was executed, too. In the annals of Jewish lore, no story emboldened the faithful to maintain the dietary laws like this one.
And the apostles, too, were familiar with this story. Paul especially, when he was a Pharisee, would have been the most scrupulous of all. His passion for the Law was what led him on a witch-hunt after Christ-followers. And yet Paul the Christian led the way in grounding his beliefs in the cross, recognizing that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Just imagine the first time one of these apostles sat down at breakfast with Gentiles and was served bacon and eggs! Taking that first bite of pork would have been a sheer act of will out of obedience to their Lord.
Paul became adamant about this freedom that was rooted in the gospel. His mission was not like so many seeker-oriented pastors today; he did not make concessions on the gospel to get bigger numbers. No, he embraced the radical idea that in Christ the Law was no longer master over any believer. Christ died, in part, so that we would no longer be under the Law (Rom 6.14; 10.4; Gal 3.19–29). And this included recognizing the essential equality between Jew and Gentile.
By way of application, we can see that it is crucial—because it is an essential part of the gospel—that race should never be a roadblock to the fullest fellowship that Christians can have. In 1963, Martin Luther King complained, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” Over fifty years later, and that observation is sadly still true in much of the United States. I have long believed that one of the key marks of authentic Christianity is the heterogeneous nature of the body of Christ. When a black man sits next to a white woman who is next to a rich man sitting beside a poor man; when an educated white woman fellowships with a poor, uneducated immigrant; when a clean-shaven, well-dressed man sits beside a facial-pierced, tattooed girl in grunge clothes; when the fellowship of the saints cannot be attributed in any way to natural inclinations—only then will the world see that we truly love each other—and that ours is a supernatural love.
But how can we accomplish this? First, we must repent of our corporate sins. Especially those in power, those who control the church, must do this. Sin is not just individual. Americans tend to think only in individual terms, and it’s time we grow out of this myopic, narcissistic view and embrace the more biblical view of individuals in community. Second, we must reach out to those who are not like us. We must seek out folks of different ethnicity to be on the pastoral staff, on the elder board, in the classroom as instructors. Today’s take-away application of the Great Commission is surely that true evangelism means getting outside our comfort zone. But we must not stop there. We must go the extra mile and truly fellowship with those unlike us. May God help us to embrace the transracial implications of the gospel and to, once and for all, end the apartheid of Sunday mornings.
51 thoughts on “The Transracial Implications of the Gospel”
Even though Messiah Himself did not abolish the law or prophets (Matthew 5), we seem to use dispensational theology and the age of grace to use what seems to be logical corollaries to assure ourselves that He did in fact abolish the law by “fulfilling” (completing/doing fully) it.
Does Peter’s vision in Acts10 have a double interpretation? Indeed, Peter gives the interpretation that the customary regulations, dogma, and traditions of men that divide fellowship between Jew and non-Jew must be abolished. But this hardly means the Law is abolished in the same way. The fact is, there is never any Scripture that plainly states the apostles ate the food served to them. Is there historical documentation for this? I am very interested to find out.
Surely, salvation came to both the Jews and non-Jews on account of faith, as evidenced by speaking in tongues even before baptism and even before knowing the law and the prophets. But does that mean people are free to continue in lawlessness? I believe Paul’s answer in Romans 6 was, “God forbid!”
Seeing the Old Testament Law as fulfilled does not mean lawlessness. Paul is very explicit about fulfilling the law of Christ, displaying the fruit of the Spirit, etc. But it is a mistake to think that dispensational theology is the driving force in seeing believers as no longer under the Law. In the 1980s, Paul and the Law was THE hot topic in academic circles. And although it may be too bold to say that a consensus came out of it, in the least there seemed to be an overwhelming conclusion on the part of most scholars that the cross freed us from the Law because, indeed, Jesus Christ fulfilled it. Ultimately, my hermeneutic is simply this: Whatever exalts Christ more is most likely the best interpretation. And to suggest that there is no evidence of Jewish Christians eating non-kosher foods is to ignore Acts 10, Mark 7.19 (“all foods are clean”), 1 Tim 4.4, and 1 Cor 9.19-22 (where Paul explicitly says he is not under the Law).
I understand where you are coming from and appreciate the overall message of the post. That said, I’ll let you know where I’m coming from. Certainly the laws about food do not carry the weight of higher laws like the 4th commandment (Sabbath) or the 3rd commandment (the name of Yahwah), but the laws are still there, nonetheless.
We tend to interpret 1 Timothy, 1 Corinthians, and Mark by comparing them with each other, instead of comparing them with the law in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Because we assume the law has been abolished and the standard of righteousness has changed and that Israel and the Church are two separate brides (covenant theology and dispensationalism), we do not take a linear approach to to Scripture.
After the giving of the whole law, Yahwah commands no one to take away or add to it. Anyone who changes the law is a false prophet (Deuteronomy 4). A prophet who does miracles but leads the people astray is a false prophet, despite his miracles (Deuteronomy). Messiah stated that many people will do miracles and many good works but be lawless (Matthew 7). He also stated that He did not come to abolish the law (Matthew 5). Yet, throughout my Bible training from kindergarten to university, I was taught that the first covenant was “old” and the laws obsolete. While Hebrews does indicate some measure of this due to a change in the priesthood, it tends to limit the change to the laws of the priest that are not necessarily obsolete but eternally “worked out” by Messiah in heaven.
With the view that the Word of Yahwah never changes, how do we interpret problem passages?
BGT – ὅτι οὐκ εἰσπορεύεται αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν καρδίαν ἀλλ᾽ εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν, καὶ εἰς τὸν ἀφεδρῶνα ἐκπορεύεται, καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα;
NASB – “because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)”
The topic of Mark 7 is not regarding the difference between beef and pork. It is regarding eating with washed or unwashed hands. (See verses 10-13.) The washing hands ceremony was a custom not a law of Yahwah. Therefore, Messiah did not follow the Jewish custom because it had replaced the law of Yahwah. This is explicitly clear in the text.
Regarding the NASB English translation, I can only say that it is so terrible I wonder if it is an intentional misrepresentation of the language. “Thus He declared ….. clean” are added words not found in BGT. The KJV is better; the KJV states that the digestion system works, “cleansing all foods.” I honestly cannot believe the NASB has added words to the New Testament.
Acts 10 explains itself. Peter said the interpretation of the vision was to abolish the Jewish customs that prohibited Jews from socializing with non-Jews. This was not a law of God.
1 Timothy 4:4-5
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”
If was assume the standard of lawlessness, then of course was interpret this to mean eating anything is holy, righteous and good. But if we follow the words in Deuteronomy that say the Word of God does not change, then we must interpret this differently. The 2 conditions that make food clean are: prayer (gratitude to God) and the word of God (the Law and Prophets).
1 Corinthians 9:20-21
BGT – καὶ ἐγενόμην τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος, ἵνα Ἰουδαίους κερδήσω· τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω· τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος, μὴ ὢν ἄνομος θεοῦ ἀλλ᾽ ἔννομος Χριστοῦ, ἵνα κερδάνω τοὺς ἀνόμους·
NASB – “(20) To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; (21) to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.”
Again, the NASB translation is biased. In verse 20, it capitalizes “law” and adds “the” as though it refers to the Law of God. However, the NASB fails to capitalize the “law” in verse 21. Regardless of that, Paul says that he is still under the law of God and the law of Messiah. In other words, he still obeyed the law even when he was with non-Jews.
I can very easily change the interpretation of this verse as the NASB has by correcting the capitalization and removing the added definite article. Doings this, it may be that the first “law” is customs of the Jews. It is clear the last “law” is the Law of the Old Testament that Paul continues to follow.
1 Corinthians 9:20-21
EXAMPLE – “To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under law, as under law though not being myself under law, so that I might win those who are under law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.”
May we follow the Law of God and the Law of Messiah as Paul did.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NASB)
“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”
I grew up in a Lutheran church in CA. In the high school youth group we would go visit other churches in the area of various denominations and races. It was a very good experience. Good article Dr. Wallace.
Jonathan, I agree with you and was glad to see your reply. I think most Christians read the NT freedom passages and make a lot of assumptions and ignore the context. I am currently working through these passages (have completed some of the ones you and Dr. Wallace mentioned) to provide a defense for the various denominations that believe the Mosaic law was not abolished and to be obeyed by Jewish and Gentile believers alike. I hope to have it in book form by the end of 2014 but have it currently up on http://www.casefortorah.com for people to give feed back and check my arguments, exegesis, etc.
I think Christians have been taught for so long that they are free from the Mosaic Law that they no longer question it. We should! the implications are enormous (“sorry God, I didn’t think I had to keep the sabbath on day 7 anymore,” etc.)!
The law was changed not abolished. The Old Covenant, Law of Moses, and Levitical Priesthood are abrogated. They were only a shadow (Heb 10:1, 8:4-5, Col 2:16-17). We now have Christ, the body that cast the shadow. Therefore, we are under the New Covenant, Law of Christ, and Melchizedekian Priesthood (Heb 7:12, 8:13). New wine requires new wineskins (Matt 9:16-17).
I am a little confused by your comment. You say the law not abolished but it was abrogated – according to Webster they mean the same thing.
Concerning aspects of the OT being a shadow, notice in Colossians that they “are” a shadow – present tense. You wrote “were” which I think is incorrect (I have a lengthy writeup on this passage at http://www.casefortorah.com/content/colossians-216-17 ). In other words they would serve as a rememberance on this side of the cross whereas before the cross they pointed to the coming work of Jesus.
While I certainly agree that the HIGH priesthood has been changed back to the Melchizedekian (there can only be one High Priest at a time and Jesus will never die again), I am not so quick to say the Levitical priesthood serving under Jesus is done with. You still have to account for Ezekiel 44:10-14 and Jeremiah 33:17-22. These passages have God promising that the Levitical priesthood shall never lack a man in his presence just as David shall never lack a man sitting on the throne (which is obviously fulfilled with Jesus). We are still waiting to see how this prophecy will be fulfilled.
Regarding the laws in Hebrews, the greater context shows the topic to be the laws of the priesthood, which were not abrogated or abolished, but changed to the Melchizedek priesthood, which you pointed out. Note that Messiah performs these on our behalf forever, so they are not abolished in heaven. They still exist, but not according to the blood of animals. Does this affect the other laws? Something to seriously consider before tossing away everything.
Regarding Colossians, it seems to imply that the Sabbath and other laws were abolished, which is a direct contradiction to the Messiah in Matthew 5. So what does Colossians mean? “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). The topic appears to be ritual and manmade laws regarding the Sabbath and other things, not the actual laws themselves. Note Messiahs ministry was against the tradition of the Pharisees and not against the law itself. Not carrying something on the Sabbath = law of Pharisees. Sabbath = law of Yahwah.
Thank you sir, for this much needed reminder of the broad reach of the Good News, and how it ought to transform humanity. Rev. 7:9-12 comes to mind of the real nature of the perfected Body – no segregation, intentional or unintentional, there!
While this universality ought to be well-ingrained into Messiah’s followers, there is IMHO a specific issue in this world that is a cause for pause, according to Paul’s admonition:
“Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:32-33, ESV)
Jewish Peter’s withdrawal from gentile Yeshua-believers in gentile Antioch was definitely a strike against the “truth of the universality of the Good News.” I would nevertheless suggest that at the same time there is no warrant to believe the Jewish apostles now considered Jewish sacred space freely violable: in other words, Paul, of Benjamin, did not now consider it his prerogative to walk into the holy of holies in the Temple in Jerusalem when he pleased, nor would he bring believing gentiles into Temple precincts that were segregated to Jews. By all accounts there is absolutely no need. The Good News has provided direct access to the heavenly Holy of Holies for everyone, Israel or the Nations.
This sanctity of physical relationships tempers Paul’s revelation that “there is no male or female.” In other words, physical distinctions between male and female yet remain, but now gender is no barrier to full access to the heavenly Holy of Holies. Indeed, no married couple, and especially none who are believers in Messiah, are “free” to share their most intimate physical expressions with anyone but their mate. Thus marriage, in which the physical distinction between male and female reaches its pinnacle, never loses its sanctity of physical sacred spaces. Likewise, when Paul says “there is neither Jew nor Greek” he is not saying all Jews have now become gentiles. He IS saying that via the Good News everyone has free access to the heavenly Holy of Holies, and that Israel has no advantage over the Nations regarding that access.
Yet in the present age how personal relationships work out “on the ground” are still subject to discernment. While Peter was in Antioch among Messiah’s faithful he had no business trying to make fully-accepted gentile believers act like Jews. Likewise in the broader Body of Messiah that principle applies to brothers and sisters from any national origin.
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This post was thought poignant and powerful, such a bold statement.
My wife, who is black, teaches the three year olds at our Church in Frisco. She has encountered several children who have never seen a black person and are quite amazed at her skin. She handles it with such grace that the children and parents come away with good (and perhaps changed) impressions.
When we compare churches predominantly attended by people of one ethnicity or another, skin color is often one of the least significant differences. What is the best way for me to help eliminate “Sunday morning apartheid”? Should I invite people of another ethnicity to join ME at MY church where I feel comfortable? Or should I be willing to join THEM at THEIR church where THEY feel comfortable — even though the preferred worship style and church culture may be radically different from what I am accustomed to?
I’m a strong believer in the church representing the demographics of the area it serves. I’ve been in all-white churches in the heart of big cities where no whites live. And I’ve been in single-ethnic churches in neighborhoods that are quite mixed ethnically. My sense is that those in power are responsible to be pro-active. This usually means white, middle-class men. You have no idea the blessing your church will get by hearing the music and sermons of those who are quite different from you. I don’t think our comfort should be very high on the list of priorities for our involvement in a church. What many white folks have come to realize is that when they visit supposedly all-black congregations they are actually quite mixed. Historically, African-American churches have been far more open to having whites in their midst than white churches have black. But another approach is to hire on the staff, in positions of leadership, people of color. There is nothing better to show full acceptance of our brothers and sisters than to put them in strong (not token) leadership roles.
How much stupidity are we willing to attribute to Jesus’ disciples? Or was Jesus just that ineffective at communicating? Do we honestly think that Jesus told all of the disciples “Go tell everyone everywhere what I have taught you” and that Moses’ Law was defunct, but that they thought he meant “Stay in Jerusalem and tell only Jews” and that Torah was still in effect? It’s one thing if we just thought they were cowards scared to do it, but it would be clear from Acts 10 that *if* what was meant was that they were supposed to be considering the Mosaic Law “fulfilled” (i.e. abolished), this was news to Peter. And while I get that the apostles are portrayed as pretty thick-headed at times, they generally *ask* what something means to clarify, they don’t just go about doing the exact opposite.
It’s funny to me that we just blindly take Paul’s word on these matters. I wonder what Barnabas would have to say about Paul’s spat w/ Peter. After all, isn’t Paul the one insisting he was a Jew to Jews, and Greek to Greeks? So what’s wrong with Peter dining with Gentiles at times, and dining with Jews when they may have been offended if he didn’t? Doesn’t Paul emphasize elsewhere not causing unnecessary offense?
Let’s not forget what was agreed to at the Jerusalem Council: maintain the status quo. Jews never believed that Gentiles would have to be circumcised or abide by the Mosaic Law in order to be “saved”, they considered Gentiles to be “God-fearers” (in good status with God) if they abided by a general moral code – the same one articulated at the Jersualem Council. What was agreed to was that Gentiles didn’t need to become Jews – but clearly they thought Jews still needed to abide by the Torah, otherwise they would have felt free to let Paul preach to Jews.
Since the disagreement is so stark, one has to wonder who the better source for the “Good News” is – the consensus of multiple people who had direct access to Jesus on a regular basis, or he who had some spiritual experiences of Jesus?
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Why do we make Idols out of fallen men like King & Mandela ? Someone please read Abernathy’s book. Someone please grasp that King was always a serial adulterer and plagiarist. Separate the truth from the Myth. Truth is hard. Truth hurts. Abernathy told his story to get at the truth. Scripture does the same. Consider King David. Martin Luther King was no David. The night before he was killed he was sleeping with white hookers. That’s a fair indication to many who know the truth that the people in America have accepted the Lie about MLK and want no part of the truth.
I’m curious as to why you would single out two Black leader and ask, “Why do we make Idols out of fallen men like King & Mandela ?”. Are you referring to Black leaders or leaders in general? If you say that you didn’t mean to delimit Black leaders specifically, then why you only mention two leaders. Is it the case that we are only culpable of making idols of only two men-those men being Dr. King and Nelson Mandela? Or, were these the only men you could think of? However, if the wrong is as egregious as you imagine, then shouldn’t you have more examples?
Further, you seem to hold to an absurd ethic: if a person is fallen, then they or their work(s) shouldn’t be celebrated. But, here, you have a problem, for scripture declares that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But this ethic can’t be right , for the majority of federal, state, social, and cultural holidays celebrate either a person(s) or the work of a person(s). This would mean that I couldn’t celebrate your birthday, my birthday, Columbus day, Veteran’s day, President’s day, Memorial Day, Allhallows Eve, Father’s day, Mother’s Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, St. Jean Baptiste Day, Labor Day, etc., because all of these people either were or are fallen men and women. We could, however, still celebrate day’s like Earth day, which haven’t any connection with humans or their efforts, but who follows this ethic. Do you celebrate your children’s birthday? Are they fallen? And what about your mother or father?
Furthermore, we don’t celebrate Dr. King or Mandela (or Black leaders or White leaders or any other race, ethnicity, or color of leaders) for the wrongs they’ve committed. Obviously, we celebrate them for the good that they’ve done for people who were oppressed through racial segregation, discrimination, Jim Crow laws, and inhumane treatment in general. Thus, to mention any sinful practice as a reason to cease and desist any homage paid to self-giving efforts of Black Leaders is to misunderstand the nature homage in general.
Judging from the quality of the thoroughness of your thought, I would say that your post comes from the same kind of hatred of those different from yourself as those at enmity with Dr. King and Mandela. I’m so glad that we are free to form our opinion about what men deserve celebration and the conditions under which they can be. But I am more glad that the larger part of American society in particular and Western in general have judged your opinion to be a wrong one.
Despite what MLK was or was not he was right in his methodology of a peaceful stand against segregation. MLK followed Gandhi’s example of peaceful protesting and standing against injustice. Whether or not he was moral or even a Christian makes little difference about the truth of injustice. MLK rallied his followers to take a stand against the issue that had been plaguing the U.S. almost since its inception: racial hatred. The slavery in the U.S. was certainly different than the slave-holding of the O.T. The USA’s version held that African Americans were only 3/5 of a person for a long while.
Dr. King, along with others, protested the inequality that continued, despite laws being changed, against people of Black African descent. Acts 17.26 clearly places us all equally belonging together as a race- the one human race: “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.”
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Reblogged this on beliefspeak2 and commented:
Acts 17.26 clearly places us all equally belonging together as a race- the one human race: “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.”
This Bible verse pretty much sums it up for me.
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts on implication.
Reblogged this on YHWH Messiah and commented:
Great message on the equality of people in the eyes of Yahwah. I do however, disagree with the author’s view of the Law of God being abolished. I have given a sufficient comment to that though. Overall, good message.
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Excellent article. The Law of Moses made a strict division between Jew and Gentile. The abrogation of the Mosaic Law means the abrogation of that division. Christians should therefore indeed be the most transracial of all people, after all, we are all equally members of the body of Christ:
Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Col 3:11
The strict division, the dividing wall between Jews and non-Jews was not the law of God. It was the law of the Jews. Refer to Peter’s interpretation of the vision, where he speaks to Cornelius and says it was against the law of the Jews to associate with a non-Jew. Can you find one verse in the Law (Gen-Deut) where Yahwah tells the Jews not to associate with non-Jews? The answer is no. Therefore, the law was a tradition of the Jews.
By this it seems the law of God is still on effect.
True, though it may be, that the laws which Jesus, Peter, and Paul sought to subvert were the “vain traditions of men.” Scripture seems to suggest something along these lines; however, (1) one can’t deny that it was the Old testament teachings of the Pentateuch which the pharisees inferred these traditions from-the Jews would most likely have Old testament proof texts to back up their traditions- and (2) its fallacious to reason that since scripture doesn’t state the principle of separateness- from those not set apart by God- that the concept isn’t implied. Scripture doesn’t say that there is a trinity or a bible either, but would you deny that one could infer them? (3) I applaud your push back on the generic, default answers to the question of the role of Christ’s new testament in contrast with the old. I think that it’s easy to use language like “the old was done away with”, etc. However, what does that really mean? Yet, maybe the reason for this post wasn’t to articulate the role of divine law in the old and new testament. Perhaps, this post was to pay homage to a great American leader- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hence, if you want an answer to your qualms, then you must find them in articles which are directly related to them, not on a post for Dr. King.
(1) Yes. The Pharisees and modern Orthodox Jews infer traditions from the law of God due to the teaching of the Rabbis.
(2) Yes, the concept of sanctification to God is directly commanded both in the Old and the New and not merely inferred. But the Pharisees infer the wall of separation from the non-Jews from this.
Just because people infer the wrong teaching from the Word of God, does that make the Word wrong as well? God forbid. It just reiterates that what Messiah taught (YAHWAH’s Word) and the Pharisees taught (dogma) were two categories of instructions. Both the Pharisees and modern Orthodoxy consider them equal. Catholicism also has its Papal Bull and Councils that they consider equal to the Word. But we should know better.
Yes, this is off the topic of MLK Day, but it does show how much and in how many areas the present church has been affected by teaching that makes the Law out to be sin or evil.
Romans 6. Not under the Law but still a slave to the righteousness it teaches.
I can almost understand your main contention to be an expostulation of antinomianism. No one is claiming that God’s moral law has been abrogated, only the civil laws of kosher foods (Leviticus 11), circumcision, worship of the sabbath on Saturday, etc. It is these laws which have been abrogated, not the universal truths of morality, like loving God with all of your heart, loving your neighbor as yourself, etc. The book of Acts implies the abrogation of these laws, for if the practical laws of kosher foods were universal, then they would apply to everyone. Since they don’t apply to everyone, then they are not universal. Thus, these laws are implied to have been abrogated by the new testament. Consider Acts 15:24. It reads: ” 24Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment…”
Now, it seems to me that a person of your position stands at a dilemma here, for, surely, (1) the Apostles of God new what the law was, so that you can’t say it was a law of man. (2) It’s also not called ‘tradition’ but ‘law’. (3) The Apostles did not require that the gentiles conform to these laws. Hence, at least, these laws were abrogated, and are, thus, not universally obligatory to Jews and Gentiles alike. Therefore, the dispensationalist thesis is a more than adequate account of the nature of obligation under the dispensation of grace.
I understand your insistence on right moral conduct. There are many who abuse grace, yet a push in the direction of legalism subverts it. So we must find a happy median, and I think that the distinction between universally obligatory duties and those that are not is sufficient to provide a balanced view of human duty under the new covenant.
Anthony, are there any passages that you can think of that show there was an understanding among the writers and the Israelites that the Torah could be categorized into moral, ceremonial, and civil areas? I have been hunting around for some but have not had any success yet. Actually, I would be interested to know if the idea of categorizing the laws is evident in the Dead Sea scrolls, Talmud, or any early Jewish writings.
You mention that Jonathan’s comments can lead to legalism. There is a misconception that obeying God’s commands is legalism. In other words, obeying God for the purpose of EARNING salvation (or favor, etc.). I do not see Jonathan indicating this thought anywhere. If he did then clearly that would be a problem. God tells us to honor our parents. When we do this are we trying to earn salvation? Of course not. The same would go for keeping the biblical holy days or dietary laws. As far as motivation goes, the reason we obey what God tells his children to do is to show our love for him (1 John 5:3). First, we are saved (by grace) and enter his kingdom and then we learn his teachings about how to live and obey them. After all he is the king. I think this is what is going on in Acts 15. First the Gentiles are saved and then they learn the law of Moses in the synagogues which are available in every city (15:21).
To quickly address the Acts 15 passage, I agree with Jonathan’s response but I would like to add that you cite the KJV which makes your case seem stronger than it is. The vast majority of other translations do not say “keep the law.” Looking at the greek in NA27 I do not see nomos there. And your points 1-3 seem to hinge on this.
For about six months, I took up the 10 commandments and thought that if any of the law was eternal, it was certainly these. I tried to call them the moral law and find a distinction between them and the rest of the book of the law. But there were too many phrases in Scripture that lumped them all together. Psalm 119 does this repeatedly.
I have read several commentaries that attempt to distinguish a moral law from the rest. If the Sabbath does not fall under the moral law, then what exactly does? Where is the distinction codified? The 4th commandment is in stone and even above murder, adultery, theft, etc. If the Sabbath can be abolished, then the any commandment under it can, at least, that was my reasoning, even after reading the commentaries.
There is, however, a clear distinction of degrees. For example, breaking the Sabbath is always sin. But handling dead animals or dead persons is not sin, just unclean. Both sin and uncleanness are undesired, but one is clearly a sin. Breaking Sabbath requires forgiveness from Yahwah. Handling dead bodies just requires washing and the rest of the day apart from others. But the line of distinction is not always that clear. With eating only clean foods, eating unclean animals was not only unclean but also a sin.
The New Testament Greek helps to define what is unclean (by law) and unclean (by custom). But the translations tend to confuse them. There’s a good explanation here: http://www.cogwriter.com/unclnt.htm The New Testament has more to say about uncleanness and unclean animals that people think.
Solomon was right when he said “the conclusion of the matter is to fear God and keep his commandments, for this applies to every person.” Messiah confirms this in Matthew 5. Those who do not apply these to their lives and teach other not to apply them will be least in His kingdom. I do not know how this fits in with covenant theology or dispensationalism, though.
I’m sorry. I forgot to discuss Acts 15.
It was clear from earlier chapters that salvation came to the non-Jews by faith apart from baptism and the law. This was evident when Cornelius and his family spoke in tongues. Abraham was also saved by faith apart from the law. So, when the sect/faction of the circumcision, whoever they were, required proselytizing and keeping the law for salvation, this was clearly wrong. This is drastically different from teaching the law for sanctification, something that the church by and large does not even do, and something I am trying to change.
Later in Acts 15, the letter they sent to the non-Jews included laws regarding idolatry, and by the way, “the Law of Moses has been read from old time every Sabbath in the synagogue.” What is the purpose of writing this if the non-Jews were not expected to learn the law in the synagogue on the Sabbath?
(I) You ask two questions: (1) Are there any passages that you can think of that show there was an understanding among the writers and the Israelites that the Torah could be categorized into moral, ceremonial, and civil areas? and (2) Is the idea of categorizing the laws evident in the Dead Sea scrolls, Talmud, or any early Jewish writings.
Response: (1) How the laws are categorized are simply used for their economy for discourse. We could categorize the laws with even further distinctions. We could say that X is a moral law just in case its practice is advocated in the new testament regarding Gentiles, and there are no scriptures which arguably suggest the abatement of the same. Now, this isn’t to suggest that the definition above is as broad or narrow as it should be, but that there could be laws which have this property. ANd if the laws have this property, then they are rightly called moral in the sense just mentioned. (2) The typical categories provided by Christian commentators are post-Jesus era or AD. It would be anachronistic to attempt to read a new testament understanding of scripture into the minds of Jewish texts. Also, this isn’t to say that the Christian understanding in general is the correct one either. This is only to say that the categorization of the old testament laws into various kinds is an outgrowth of new testament theology and new testament scripture, something the Jewish documents wouldn’t have had. (3) But if I acquiesced to there was not any explicit distinction of laws in the aforementioned texts, it wouldn’t follow that the notion wasn’t implicated by them. The word, ‘trinity’, categorizing God as a tri-personal being isn’t in either the old testament or the new, but the word ‘trinity’ remains veritable description. This reasoning is clearly fallacious and can’t be the foundation for a belief that there aren’t any distinctions between the laws of the old testament. Any argument which relies on the premise, ‘if there are no explicit distinctions between the laws in the old testament, then there are no distinctions between them’ is unsound, therefore, because this assumption admits of a false dichotomy between a distinction of a law existing either explicitly or not at all. And this is clearly false because there is always the option of implicit distinctions of old testament laws.
(II) You write: “There is a misconception that obeying God’s commands is legalism.”
Response: The question isn’t about if we should obey what God commands, the question is about what has God commanded of Gentile believers.
(III) You write:”The same would go for keeping the biblical holy days or dietary laws.”
Response: Since the question is whether or not Gentiles need observe the law of Moses, then to say that we should observe Jewish holy days and dietary laws is to assert the very contention you need to demonstrate.
(IV) You write: “To quickly address the Acts 15 passage… you cite the KJV which makes your case seem stronger than it is. The vast majority of other translations do not say “keep the law.” Looking at the greek in NA27 I do not see nomos there. And your points 1-3 seem to hinge on this.”
Response: The NET bible has two clear examples of the either a practice in the law of required for salvation or observance of the law of Moses as a whole. They are verses 1 and 5:
Verse 1: Now some men came down from Judea and began to teach the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Notice, that in this verse the observance of Moses’ custom was a requirement for salvation, namely, circumcision.
Verse 5: But some from the religious party of the Pharisees who had believed stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise the Gentiles and to order them to observe the law of Moses.”
Verse five gives the two requisites to be examined, then, by the counsel of Apostles and Elders. But what was there conclusion? Should Gentiles keep (téreó) the law of Moses and be circumcised? The answer comes in the verse 20.
So, we have (1) Judaizers who would like to see the Gentile converts keep the law of Moses and circumcision. (2) Peter stating that this was a yoke who the Jews themselves couldn’t keep, and suggesting that they shouldn’t place this yolk upon the Gentiles as well. And (3) in verse 20, James saying that the Gentile converts should abstain from (a)things defiled by idols and (b) from sexual immorality and from (c) what has been strangled and (d) from blood. Thus, a concise list of four instruction was enough to guide the early Gentile converts to ‘farewell’.
So, you’ve said that you’re not advocating the keeping of the law for salvation; hence, you’re not promoting legalism. However, you are still claiming that the keeping of the law of Moses is still ‘necessary’ in some sense. But here you’re out of consensus with the Apostles and Elders of the 15th chapter of Acts, who stated that the Gentile converts avoiding (a)-(d) above was sufficient. Hence, if you require more of Gentile converts than is necessitated by new testament scripture, then how aren’t you promoting legalism? What you would like to do is agree with the pharisees of verse 5 and say “yes, they must keep the law of Moses!”, but then why not should we also be circumcised, if this is God’s law, and there aren’t any distinctions between the laws, and his requirements are just as they were in the old testament? Is circumcision abrogated? As for verse 21, how you can get that Gentiles are to be taught from the law of Moses is besides me. I don’t see this at all. In fact, the context seems to suggest the opposite. It’s as if James is saying that since the law of Moses has its adherents that the early Christians ought not to seek more in the new Gentile converts. This would also be similar to Peter’s question in verse 11 when he asks how could they demand something of the Gentiles which was such a burden to Jews.
I do not see why we even ask the question, “Do the laws apply to non-Jewish believers?” This is dispensational or covenant theology. Paul says there is no distinction between Jew or non-Jew. All who have sinned under the law will be judged by it and all who have sinned without the law will still be judged. In the law, Yahwah says not to make a distinction; there is one law for both Hebrew and Gentiles living among Hebrews.
The New Covenant does not make the Old one irrelevant. This is historically and Biblically true.
Keeping only the instructions of God starting in the New Testament (Matthew-Revelation) is a way of saying the instructions from the First Covenant now have no authority over our lives. But Paul carried over the authority of the First Covenant into the New Covenant when he told the non-Jews, “Keep (imperative tense) the feast (of Passover)” (1 Cor. 5:7). John carried over the authority by honoring the Passover and teaching his non-Jewish disciples to do the same (writings of Irenaeus concerning Polycarp). John continued to make a distinction between unclean and clean animals even in the last days (Revelation 18:2). Peter carried it over when he said he had not eaten anything unclean even years after the ministry of Messiah (Acts 10). Messiah carried over the authority when He said not to think/assume He came to abolish it (Matthew 5).
The authority of the First Covenant is not over us as a task-master, and not every commandment applies to every person in every circumstance, and indeed some of them no longer apply. But that does not nullify the authority that they have. What is the intention and spirit of the law? We must read with this mind and with this spirit.
(1) I believe in salvation apart from any works of law, as baptism, bread and juice, foot-washing.
– Abraham was justified by faith before being circumcised (equivalent to baptism as a means of proselytizing)
– Abraham was justified by faith before the law was codified and fully given.
– The people in Messiah’s ministry were healed by their faith even before the giving of the Lord’s Supper and foot-washing.
– The non-Jews received the Spirit of Yahwah before they were baptized and before they had understood the law of God.
(2) I believe in the continued sanctification of all believers in obedience to the divine law.
– Hebrews 5:12 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.”
– Romans 3:1-3 “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?”
– Romans 6:19 “For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.”
– 1 Corinthians 4:4 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”
So as for me, I will not defile myself with animals God never intended for human consumption. I will not follow Rome’s authority by forgetting the Sabbath. I will follow the example of Messiah and John who historically kept the holy days, the Sabbaths, and the food laws until the day they died.
When it comes to nicotine, alcohol, or other harmful substances, preachers have no problem using the NT verse to encourage others to keep thier vessel clean. But when it comes to pork and shellfish, they shy away from quoting the law. Why is that? Is there an underlying tendency for rebellion due to an indoctrination that following the laws of cleanliness is “works salvation” and therefore sin? This was my thinking just a few years ago in the Baptist church. If keeping the laws of cleanliness means nothing to my God, then I suppose He’ll forgive my obedience to them. But I would hate to have taught people disobedience my whole life if He in fact does care. He dares what we wear, where we go, who we fellowship with, and yes, even what we eat.
You write: “(1)The authority of the First Covenant is not over us as a task-master, and not (2) every commandment applies to every person in every circumstance, and indeed (3) some of them no longer apply.”
(I) (1) conflicts with Peter’s statement in Acts 15:10: ” So now why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? [NET Bible]” Further, this claim came after the Christian Pharisees has said that Gentile converts should (a) be circumcised and (b) follow the law of Moses in Acts 15:5–“But some from the religious party of the Pharisees who had believed stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise the Gentiles and to order them to observe the law of Moses” [NET Bible]”. Hence, Peter considers both (a) and (b) to be an gratuitous burden to be placed on the Gentile converts.
(II) Points (2) and (3) are logically equivalent. They are equivalent to saying that ‘It isn’t the case that all of the laws of Moses are required’ and ‘There is a law of Moses which isn’t required.’ But given the truth of (2) and (3)-that some laws of Moses aren’t required-it would seem to raise the question as to which laws of Moses aren’t required anymore. Therefore, I don’t know why you could seriously make this statement: I do not see why we even ask the question, “Do the laws apply to non-Jewish believers?” This is the crucial question because if the (a) and (b) aren’t required then they shouldn’t be kept!
(III) The law of Moses is where we find circumcision, dietary laws, holy and Sabbath days. This is what I refer to as (b) or the law of Moses. Now, we know from verse five that Peter believes that the Jews couldn’t keep (b) and that it shouldn’t be placed on the necks of Gentiles. The first part of his statement shows the effete quality of the old testament for personal righteousness, for it could not be kept; thus, the need for another way, the way of faith.
(IV) James, in verse 20 of Acts 15, asserts that they should instruct the new converts to four practices:
(a) abstinence from things defiled by idols
(b) from sexual immorality
(c) from what has been strangled
(d) from blood.
Further, James states in verse 19 that they shouldn’t create extra difficulty for the new converts by telling them to keep the practice of circumcision and observance of the law of Moses, and practices (a)- (d) are a solution to this problem. Now, you would like to add the observance of the Sabbath day, holy days, and dietary laws to this list; however, these would cause extra difficulty on Gentile converts and be gratuitous. The addition of extra practices would subvert the purpose of the Apostles and Elders of this counsel, and the Spirit of God Himself who believed that criteria (a)- (d) was sufficient for the new converts to “farewell”. Consider verse 28: “For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules:[NET Bible]” Therefore, any additional requirements to these are not what God and the early Apostles and Elders thought best. Thus, you may want to add an extra requirement to the necks of Gentile converts and believers; however, you can’t do it on the basis of scripture which clearly states that no foods are to be rejected when blessed by prayer (1 Timothy 4:4). And all foods are clean (Mark 7:19)! No one can condemn the Gentile who doesn’t observe feasts, holy days, and Sabbaths (Colossians 2:16) : “Therefore do not let anyone judge you with respect to food or drink, or in the matter of a feast, new moon, or Sabbath days” The shadow has pasted. Now, we have Christ and are under his law, not the law of diet and observance of holy days, but the law which based upon faith and the timeless teachings and always obligatory commands of scripture.
Regarding Acts 15, the issue is proselytizing for salvation. This teaching from the Jewish sect is obviously wrong. In my previous post I said that I believe in salvation apart from any works of law, as baptism, bread and juice, foot-washing, etc., whether Old Testament Law or New Testament instructions from Messiah.
I did an okay job explaining the passages in my first post (the first comment on this post). You can refer there for an explanation of:
– Acts 15 (not an exhaustive list of laws, only 4 + learning every Sabbath at the synagogue)
– Mark 7:19 (translators added 3 words)
– 1 Timothy 4:4 (the condition is being subject to the word of God and prayer)
– Colossians 2:6 (in context “the traditions of men” from the syncretist Gnostics, not the law of God)
The problem we have here is seeming direct contradictions in the New Testament between different authors and between the same authors themselves. But I see no contradictions at all because I see the apostles accepting both salvation by faith and righteous living through the law. Romans 8 perfectly explains this concept: becoming alive through the Spirit and through the same Spirit putting to death disobedience. Indeed, Cornelius spoke in tongues through the Spirit even before baptism, but he was still baptized according to the commandment of Messiah, which came from the Jewish practice of proselytizing.
Matthew 5 – Messiah did not abolish the law
Matthew 7 – lawless people who also do many good things will not inherit the kingdom
1 Corinthians 5:7 – imperative “keep the feast”
Acts 15 – some animals still unclean (even after Mark 7:19)
Revelation 18 – some birds are still unclean
Irenaeus (2nd century) – Polycarp and Polycrates, students of John, refused Roman Easter and kept Passover
These things are “works of the law” by which no man will be justified; however the record is there, that this is no excuse to teach contrary to them.
(I) “In my previous post I said that I believe in salvation apart from any works of law…”
This much is true, but you still promote the observance of the Sabbath, and dietary laws for non-Jew believers; and this is wrong, for the four criteria, stated in verses 20 and 29, provide a sufficient enough practice for the new non-Jewish believers to “farewell”, and that this was thought to be so by the Spirit of God, the Apostles, and the Elders, is made explicit by verse in verse 28. Hence, anything in addition to the will of God, besides these four criteria, which is an not considered a “necessary rule” (verse 28) is considered to be an “yolk” (verse 10) and an “extra difficultly” (verse 19).
(II) It’s a misrepresentation of my own position to think that we teach contrary to scripture. On the contrary, it is my own position which is supported by the explicit statements of the new testament writings. Let’s consider several proof texts of this sort again:
(a) There is Acts 15, set within the context of answering the question should the non-Jewish believers observe the law of Moses and circumcision for which the answer is the these are not necessary. And a list of “necessary things” is provided, none of which include observance of Sabbaths, or the keeping of dietary laws, which you’re advocating for their observance. Thus, what you would add is deemed unnecessary by this text, hence, not required.
(b) You write:”Acts 15 (not an exhaustive list of laws, only 4 + learning every Sabbath at the synagogue).” You’ve made the suggestion that verse 21 (of Acts) promotes the idea of non-Jews worshiping on the Sabbath, but this is incorrect for two reasons: (1) The verbs of verse 21 are set in the indicative mode, not the imperative, and (2) the force of verse 21 is contingent upon the preceding verse, due to the use of the conjunction ‘γάρ’. Thus, 21 is further explanation of verse 20, offering the reason why they shouldn’t add “extra difficulty” to the non-Jew converts. It can’t be read as a command on grammatical and conventional grounds of Koine Greek.
(c) “Mark 7:19 (translators added 3 words)” This is irrelevant, for the meaning of the text is ‘purifying all the foods’ ( καθαρίζων πάντα τὰ βρώματα) in the Greek. Thus, the force of what Jesus Christ spoke would still have the effect of ‘purifying all the foods.’ Furthermore, one doesn’t need the adverbial phrase to sensibly understand this assertion of Jesus to promote an inward purity and also describe the way we are defiled. Jesus’ claim is that nothing which goes into us defiles us; food goes into people; therefore, diet doesn’t defile a man. Hence, this statement has the attribute, independently of its modifying adverbial clause, of ‘purifying all foods’, as the text clearly says. This step to suggest that the meaning of the verse in question is contingent upon a few words added in English is suspect, for it is more reflective of your willingness to postulate unwarranted suspicion in the intention of the translators on the sole basis that the verse, as it stands, contradicts your own view. I wonder if your position on the law is derived from scripture or imposed on it?
(d) You write: “1 Timothy 4:4 (the condition is being subject to the word of God and prayer)” Here, you’ve misquoted 1 Timothy 4:5–“For it is sanctified by God’s word and by prayer.” ‘It’ refers to the subject in the previous verse which is ‘food’. This verse says nothing of ‘being subject to the word of God and prayer’. Again, you need to change what the scripture says for it to fit your views, suggesting that your views conflict with scripture.
(e) You write: “Colossians 2:6 (in context “the traditions of men” from the syncretist Gnostics, not the law of God)” I did not quote Colossians 2:6, I quoted 2:16. This verse uses the indefinite pronoun ‘τις’ (or ‘anybody’) which is a logical variable who’s range is undefined. Thus, no one can judge the non-Jew in regard to food, drink, feasts, new moons, or Sabbaths. This includes you as well.
(III) You write: “The problem we have here is seeming direct contradictions in the New Testament between different authors and between the same authors themselves.” In what you’ve written, there hasn’t been any demonstration of apparent contradictions, only warrantless remarks. In fact, the only in inconsistencies have been between your view that non-Jews should keep the dietary laws and Sabbaths, and between the scripture. Thus, I’ve demonstrated that scripture contradicts your own views. Now, I would like to take a look at the positive reasons for your position. You mention six points which support your position:
(1) Matthew 5 – Messiah did not abolish the law:
This point doesn’t support your view, for evangelicals accept the sense of ‘abolish’ which makes this statement true. In order for this to support your view, you would need to prove that the sense of ‘abolish’ in this passage and the sense within the traditional view is, at least, inconsistent. It’s not enough to quote a verse. You must demonstrate that your my position is contradictory to the sense of ‘abolish’ in this passage. I take it that the sense of ‘abolish’ in this passage is ‘to make useless’ or ‘to make insignificant.’ This sense coincides with Jesus’ fulfilling of the law and the prophets, for both the law in the prophets looked for to the Christ. Thus, the significance of these laws as being the shadow or a school master of the reality to come will always be in place. However, since righteous by faith affords us a much better way than a way which still produces people who ‘all have sinned and come short of God’s glory’.
(2)” Matthew 7 – lawless people who also do many good things will not inherit the kingdom”:
This claim has no apparent relevance as to why non-Jewish believers should follow the dietary laws of Moses and Sabbaths. Thus, as it stands, this is a non-sequitur.
(3) “1 Corinthians 5:7 – imperative “keep the feast””
Unfortunately, this verse isn’t in 1 Corinthians 5:7. It’s in verse eight. Verse eight is clearly a metaphor, for Paul says that the old yeast were vice and evil. And this is a comparison of immorality to yeast, which is a metaphor. Hence, you can’t use a metaphorical celebration of a feast to support a literal one. This would be groundless.
(4) “Revelation 18 – some birds are still unclean”
There isn’t any reference in Revelations 18:2 which remotely suggest that non-Jewish believers should observe the dietary laws of the old testament. This interpretation is an exercise eisegesis.
(5) “Irenaeus (2nd century) – Polycarp and Polycrates, students of John, refused Roman Easter and kept Passover.
(i) Polycrates was in a heated controversy with Pope Victor about the feast of Passover, which is a Jewish celebration, but rather to celebrate the Savior’s Passover on the fourteenth day. This is clear from Eusebius, who is the source of the letter which we have from Polycrates: “The churches of all Asia, guided by a remoter tradition, supposed that they ought to keep the fourteenth day of the moon for the festival of the Savior’s passover, in which day the Jews were commanded to kill the paschal lamb; and it was incumbent on them, at all times, to make an end of the fast of this day, on whatever day of the week it should happen to fall. [The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, Book V, Chapter 23] Thus, the Christians aren’t properly said to have celebrated the Jewish Passover, but rather the “Savior’s Passover”, as Eusebius writes. Thus, this wouldn’t support the claim that non-Jewish Christians should observe, in particular the feast of Passover, as distinguished from the celebration of the Savior’s Passover.
(ii) There isn’t any conclusive evidence that Polycarp observed the Savior’s Passover, and if he did, it still wouldn’t be identical to the Jewish Passover feast, which doesn’t have Christ at its center. Also, Polycarp was likely a disciple of John, but the same can’t be said of Polycrate of Ephesus.
(IV) Finally, you write: “These things are “works of the law” by which no man will be justified; however the record is there, that this is no excuse to teach contrary to them. Your conclusion is premature, for we have proved that scripture contradicts your own views, which you can only misquote or make implausible interpretations to make them fit. Also, your example of early patriots following the Jewish Passover feast is wanting because what you’ve provided is one example of early Polycrate observing a non-Jewish, Savior’s Passover feast, which isn’t what you needed to demonstrate, for you needed to prove that the old testament practice of the Feast of Passover was still obligatory. By providing an example of Polycrate not observing that feast, you’ve undermined your own position.
1) Mark 7:19 – For someone with an attention to detail, it escapes me why you think the changes made here are insignificant. The NASB translation changes the text from the digestion system purging all food to Messiah commanding all food is legally clean.
2) 1 Timothy 4:4 – It (food) is made holy by the two conditions of prayer and the Word. In other words, not all food is good or clean.
3) Colossians 2 – A response to the syncretism of Gnosticism and the following of rituals as the Pharisees about how to keep the law of God. If this were the abolition of the law of God, then these key phrases would not be used:
– “decrees” (v. 14) which means dogma, not law
– “the commandments and teachings of men” (v. 22)
– “appearance of wisdom in self-made religion” (v. 23)
In light of the following quotes, how should we interpret these “problem” passages? Should the law should in no way be observed or is it still relevant?
#1 The law is clearly relevant in this age: “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments (law and prophets), and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven…. But seek first His (the Father’s) kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matithyah/Matthew 5:19, 6:33).
#2 The law will govern the conduct of His kingdom in the coming age:
“And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahwah, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of Yahwah from Jerusalem” (Yashayah/Isaiah 2:3).
“Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the king, Yahwah of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zecharyah/Zechariah 14:16)
#3 The Sabbath and appointed holy days were still relevant to the non-Jewish church:
“All these (Philip and his daughters, John, Polycarp, Thraseas, Sagarius, Papirius, Melito, the bishops of Asia, et. al.) observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven” (Eusibius in Church History, book 5, chapter 24, verse 6, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250105.htm)
“And on the Sabbath, when prayer had been made long time on bended knee, he (Polycrates), as was his custom, got up to read; and every eye was fixed upon him. Now the lesson was the Epistles of Paul to Timothy and to Titus, in which he says what manner of man a bishop ought to be” (Pionius in The Apostolic Fathers, volume 3.2, verse 22, http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/pionius_life_of_polycarp_01_text.htm)
“And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath” (Acts 13:42).
Dispensational and covenant theory are not supported with historical fact but seem to be derivatives of Catholic theology. The fact is that Rome wanted to be the head of the church by 250AD and broke from the churches of Asia. This is the context of Eusibius’ book. Roman Catholicism started later, but the groundwork was started much earlier.
So which theological position should we take? That is a question for church leaders, of which I am not one. I’m just an English teacher in Vietnam.
(1) I didn’t use the NASB translation. In fact, I provided a literal translation of the Greek-‘purifying all foods’. So that point is a non sequitur.
(2) You write: “It (food) is made holy by the two conditions of prayer and the Word. In other words, not all food is good or clean.” (a) Paul explicitly says that all creatures are kalon or good. And your statement is inconsistent with Paul’s. (b) Also, we aren’t to reject food after receiving it with eucharistias or gratefulness and thankfulness. (c) In verse 5, the conjunction ‘gar’ is used, and this conjunction is used to denote cause or an explanation. You’ve mistaken a condition with a cause. It’s not as though food is cleansed if the word and prayer cleanses it, which would be a conditional statement. It is good because the word and prayer cleanses it, so that verse 5 states the reason why all creatures are good, not the condition upon how they can be. This is obvious grammatically from the text. It seems that your position is one of preference, not one based on scripture.
3)(a) Again, Colossians 2:16 uses the indefinite pronoun ‘anybody’. This pronoun is a logical variable whose applicability is to anyone who judges (‘krinetō’) them. (b) Further, the context of chapter 2, demonstrates that what’s being considered is the law of Moses. This is so for several reasons: (i) Verse 13 describes uncircumcision as a reason for spiritual death, which is a required of the old testament. (ii) Verse 14 states that our debt was expressed by decrees which Christ nailed to the cross. And this is parellels what Paul says about the law else where. Therefore, the context of verse sixteen is to not allow anyone to judge us on the basis of what Christ has done for us on the cross. It is a spiritual circumcision, not one done with human hands. It’s not on the basis of the law of works, but the law of faith. For we are not under the law, we are under grace.
(4) As for your quotes, Eusebius points out that the controversy between Pope Victor and Polycrates was whether to observe the “Savior’s passover” on the day when the Jews observed their passover. (I cite the source in my previous post). Thus, this shows an re-interpretation of Jewish customs, found in the law of Moses, in light of Christian revelation. However, this was the controversy, as indicated by Eusebius. In fact, Pope Victor sought to excommunicate Polycrates because of the practice, yet he was pleaded with by the other church elders not to. Therefore, (i) the practice was not to observe the passover of the old testament, (ii) this is a reinterpretation of Jewish customs within the context or Christian truth. Thus, its basis isn’t old testament laws, but new testament truth, and finally, (iii) Even the practice of this reinterpretation was disputed by the leaders of the early church and thought deserving of excommunication. Therefore, your position is based upon a practice that’s been contentious within the Christian community since its instantiation, and citing its ealy adherents doesn’t demonstrate the universal acceptability of it.
Does the church today keep the 14th day of the moon like all the bishops in Asia did? Why not? Does the church today keep the Sabbath like Polycrates did? Why not?
Do we make a distinction between what is unclean by custom (κοινὸν) and law (ἀκάθαρτo)? Why not? Peter did even after the famed Mark 7:19 passage that supposedly abolished a commandment.
Do we make a distinction between dogma (δογματίζεσθε) and law (νόμον)? Why not? Paul did.
Do we make a distinction between “honor your father and mother” (law) and “give all of your inheritance to the Temple” (dogma)? Why not? Messiah did.
When we refuse to make a distinction, we lump the law and prophets altogether with the Jewish dogma of the Pharisee and Essene sects. Is that fair to God?
(1) Does the church today keep the 14th day of the moon like all the bishops in Asia did? Why not? Does the church today keep the Sabbath like Polycrates did? Why not?
(I) Polycrates and the church of Asia celebrated, what Eusebius referred to as, the Savior’s Passover. This was not the Jewish Passover which was celebrated on the 15th day of Nissan. Hence, you can’t state that the Asiatic Christians celebrated the old testament practice. (2) Appeals to authorities won’t work here. Are we to accept the celebration of the Savior’s Passover on the 14th day of Nissan, like the quartodecimans of the church Asia, which, supposedly, is handed down from the Apostle John, or are we to celebrate Easter on the Lord’s Day, which is handed down by the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul to the churches of the west? I’m in the particular advantage of holding a position on the Passover/Easter controversy that was settled by the majority of churches, uncontested, outside of Asia? (3) Thus, pointing to a sect of early Christians to support a practice which was contentious during the time of Polycarp does nothing for your case. (4) The premise that a group of early Christians’ practice of a historically controverted custom is sufficient for today’s Christians to adopt it leads to absurd conclusions if accepted. Thus, Solozmen writes that the practice of Easter on Sunday was handed down by the Apostles Peter and Paul. The church of the west adopted this practice. And the church of the west chose not to follow the Asiatic church’s quartodecimanism. So, if I select of the churches of the west, they weren’t quartodecimans; however, the Asiatic church was. Thus, on your ethic, we should both adopt and not adopt the same practice, which is a contradiction. Hence, the principle is inconsistent.
(2) Do we make a distinction between what is unclean by custom (κοινὸν) and law (ἀκάθαρτo)? Why not? Peter did even after the famed Mark 7:19 passage that supposedly abolished a commandment.
(I) There needs not be a distinction here, and there can’t be one, for a law and a custom aren’t mutually exclusive terms. A law could be a custom, and a custom a law. So, your distinction here is a false dichotomy.
Do we make a distinction between dogma (δογματίζεσθε) and law (νόμον)? Why not? Paul did.
(I) Again, as mentioned above, the immediate context of Colossian 2:6-15 is the spiritual life God has given apart from the law. Consider, for example, verse 13, which says that Christ made us alive while uncircumcised in the flesh, without the law. It is within this context that Paul summarizes verses 6-15 and states not to allow anyone to judge the in respect to a feast, new moon, or a Sabbath
Do we make a distinction between “honor your father and mother” (law) and “give all of your inheritance to the Temple” (dogma)? Why not? Messiah did. The point is that the context of scripture.
(I) This isn’t needed because passages, like Colossians 2:16, Mark 7:19, etc. explicitly contradict the adoption of such practices.
When we refuse to make a distinction, we lump the law and prophets altogether with the Jewish dogma of the Pharisee and Essene sects. Is that fair to God?
This isn’t a moral issue, it’s a matter of truth.
– Rereading Eusebius: “on the 14th day of the moon”
– Reading about the origins of both the sex goddess Easter and origins of the pagan practice in the church
– Doing a linguistic study on the uses of clean and unclean in the Greek Old Testament and New Testament.
Doing a linguistic study on the uses of law, ordinance, decree, and dogma in both Greek OT and Greek NT.
I did these things and this is why I see it completely differently. Read the context as well. Commandments of men are not the commandments of God.
You must deal with the arguments. Suggestions are presumptuous, but deal with the arguments. I addressed all of your quandaries. I quote you book, chapter, and section number of the Eusebius piece above. I quote the immediate context of Colossians 2:16, verse 12,13,14,15, and finally 16. These verses all refer to our freedom in Christ, with the instructions not to allow anyone to condemn Christians for not observing the Sabaths, new moon festivals, and food and drink. I also quote you a passage from Solozmen who states that the practice of observance of Easter was passed down by Paul and Peter, so that the appeal to John’s authority as a Apostle wouldn’t work because we could always appeal to the authority of Peter and Paul for the traditional practice. Finally, according to your hermeneutic, circumcision wouldn’t be a part of the law as well because Paul makes a distinction between circumcision performed by God and by human hands. But this can’t be right, for we know that circumcision was commanded by God in the law. Therefore, your hermeneutic fails to extract a plausible interpretation of the text, for it implies obvious falsehoods. We must then say that verses 6-15 ,must be interpreted in light of Christ’s deliverance of believers from the law. You must deal with the arguments, not merely make assertions. Any distinction you perceive must be guided by the evidence of the text, not by an idiosyncratic definition. For if were right then either Paul and Peter missed this implication, and at least one of these explicitly made instructions not to allow judaizers to intimidate them into the practice of the law, or Solozmen lied about the tradition being passed down from Paul and Peter. If you say the latter, then you’ll have no reason to accept the testimony of Eusebius either, for he could have had an agenda. If you say the former, then you’re left in a lonely place of attempting to explain how a man who walked with Jesus and a man who’s revelations took him to the third heaven could, not only sin, because, according to your claim, we are supposed to keep the law, but teach others to do wrong as well! Face the facts. I can’t say that you don’t have a reason to advocate the adherence to the laws of the old covenant, but I can say that these are very poor and unconvincing reasons to do so, for the reasons I’ve mentioned above.
The problem with comments and message boards is they don’t do well with long in-depth arguments. I am going to work on a thorough article dealing with Acts 15 to post on the Case for Torah website. Dealing with the freedom from the law passages in the NT too briefly tends to just lead to confusion of the arguments. I hope you will take the time to look at the articles that are already posted to see that there really are reasonable interpretations (using sound hermeneutics) of these passages showing that they are not referring to the Mosaic Law.
I am sorry you took my question to be disingenuous. I really am looking for sources. Nonetheless, the Mosaic Law is part of a single covenant. You either break the covenant or keep it. I just don’t see anything in scripture or in the culture that allows portions of the covenant to be done away with and the remainder to still be considered valid.
It sounds like your main concern is that some of the laws are for the Jews and others are for the Gentiles (and Jews too I assume). The main problem that I see with two sets of laws is this: the Gentiles were grafted into Israel (Rom 11). If Gentile believers were adopted into Israel then they should be considered Israel. Think about it this way. Let’s say you are married and you and your wife and 2 kids. You then decide together that you want to adopt 2 more children. Now, when these adopted children come into your family do you have a different set of rules for them then your genetic children? No, that does not make sense. However, there is probably a transition period as the adopted kids are learning how your family works. So you start off with a couple of basic rules and expect them to learn the rest over time and you train/teach them. I think it is the same with the Gentile believers who are adopted into God’s family and I think that is what is going on in Acts 15.
As for your comment about the “Jewish festivals” not being for the Gentiles, you should take a look at what God says about them in Lev 23. He identifies them as HIS appointed feasts (eg. see verse 2). They are dates that he has set up to meet with his people. No where does he identify them as the Jews’ days.
I don’t think the Apostles ever taught freedom from the Mosaic Law. That would have been inconceivable to the Jewish mind and would have required an in-depth apologetic that we just don’t have in the NT. Rather we have snippets here and there that are misunderstood because they are taken out of context (yes, I realize this is debatable and thus our discussion).
Anthony, you seem like you have a sharp mind. I sincerely welcome your feedback on any of my articles at http://www.casefortorah.com . If I have a faulty hermeneutic or argument I would like to be corrected.
ekklesia (church, assembly, or gathering) was born at the precise historical time that the present dispensation was manifested, whether that time was Acts 9, Acts 13 or after Acts 28:28. In the case of the mid-Acts systems, this requires the problematic theory that ‘two bodies’ simultaneously existed during the Acts, as stated by Dr. Bedore (above). As just one example of the difficulties created by this approach, the Acts 9 system holds, for example, that when Saul of Tarsus initially believed the gospel, he became the first member of the ekklesia known as the “Body of Christ,” yet he was baptized with water, an ordinance believed by many mid-Acts dispensationalists to be a ‘kingdom ceremony.’ Moreover, Ananias, who baptized Saul, was undoubtedly part of the Acts 2 (‘kingdom’) church. Thus we have someone in the ‘old’ church baptizing someone into an entirely different, ‘new,’ church, with a water ceremony which mid-Acts dispensationalists teach has no part in the present dispensation.
The εκκλησιας (church) was born on Mount Sinai at the giving of the Law.
Deuteronomy 4:10 – “Assemble yourselves together…”
εκκλησιας is used 30 times in reference to a holy meeting of Israel befor it was used in the New Testament. The word “church” is a dispensational word that tries to set the Gentile faithful apart from anything in the Old Tesatament. If we use church in the New Testament, the same word should be applied to Israel in the Old Testament.
Great study on what the diving wall between Jew and Gentile was: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFeDbwLdb-U
Just wanted to let you know I was glad to see you at First Evan Church in Memphis last weekend. I tried to get into your workshop at the Downline Summit, but got there late and it had already filled up. After having read this post, I was excited to hear you speak on John 4 and the Samaritan woman… I think everyone in Memphis needs to hear about the “trans-racial implications of the Gospel” as much as possible. My own church, Second Presbyterian, is much too homogeneous, but I know the leadership is doing a lot to change that and we seem to be slowly heading in the right direction.
Anyways, just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your thoughts.
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