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Monday, 11 October 2010

Law breakers?

As part of my readathon, over this sabbatical period that I have, I have begun to read the bible from start to finish. There is much of the Old Testament that I have never read, and if I'm honest I haven't been all that enthusiastic about. However I have been pleasantly surprised! It has been challenging at times it's fair to say, but that has been great. I love a challenge.
I think I have always had this view that the OT is just for Jews. That it isn't very relevant in the 21st Century. but recently obviously, I have reviewed that! Reading it is giving me clarity about much of the New Testament too. But the thing I still struggle with is how much of it do we just 'discount', if you like, as being pre-Christ? As in, oh well we don't have to sacrifice stuff anymore, Christ died so we don't have to do that. But what about all the rules and regulations? what constitutes a rule that should be obeyed and one that is ok to ignore? I mean the 10 commandments are a pretty good moral standard regardless of Gods instruction. so most people, Christian or otherwise, would probably not have a problem with them. And there are other laws too that actually could just be part of a general common sense approach to life. In fact some of the stuff in Leviticus about people with boils/skin diseases etc being put into isolation is surely just a simple and sensible approach to inefectious diseases, especially in an era where there was a very different approach to medicine! In a way the priests took a similar role to a modern day Doctor.
But what about the more contraversial stuff? What about where it says adulterers should be stoned to death and so on. Ok so this doesn't sit terribly well with our 21st C lives ;) , but what makes that decision for us? I'm not trying to be either flippant or dense, I just want to know. A good example, which jews obviously do stick to, is what the OT suggest we should and shouldn't eat. Why is it ok to eat a cow but not a pig? for example and why do Jews stick to this but Christians don't? (personally I am a veggie so I'm not bothered either way...) And indeed there are obviously bits of the laws that even Jews don't keep, I mean you can hardly stone someone in the middle of Stamford Hill can you?
What I'm trying to say I think, is that where do we draw the line? I, as a Christian, accept that the bible is the Word of God, so who am I to say, well ok, I accept but perhaps I'll ignore that bit, or just leave that section out...?

I used to think that the bible was like a guidebook that we had to interpret for ourselves and draw our own conclusions. I don't completely disagree with that now, but I would struggle with what conclusions I should draw from all those OT laws that we don't keep....

As always comments appreciated - I am trying to broaden my horizons!!


Lesley said...

Ah.. I have been thinking about this.. The Galatians had decided to do the Jewish law on top of their Christian faith and St Paul wasn't too chuffed. You know I'm not his greatest fan, but these are his thoughts:

3:1 You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it's obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.
2-4Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God's Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

Red said...

thanks Lesley. interesting bit from Paul, and to a certain extent I agree with him - yes I am saved because of what Jesus did, not by my works. but I'm still confused!
I mean as Christians we do look to Christ, but he is part of the trinity with God the Father, so did God just say, ok forget all those rules, just look at my son? I don't know!

Arbee said...

These are interesting questions you pose. I think we need to remember that Jesus was not a Christian (He was The Christ), he was a Jew, and an observant one too. His Bible was our Old Testament (as it was also for the Apostles). I think that a key passage to reflect upon is the story of the two on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, for we find there that, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself". For Jesus the OT was all about Him, so should it not also be for us? The challenge is to read it in this way and find Him there.

The NT doesn't render the OT redundant, it helps us to understand it, and to see Jesus as fulfilling God's plans and purposes. May I give an example? In Exodus 20 the "Ten Commandments" are not referred to as such, it says that, "God spoke all these WORDS" (my emphasis). So God expresses His glory (His divine nature) and reveals His character through these words, and also reveals the kind of character He expects His people to have (e.g. you're not going to steal). Then Jesus comes as the Word (Hebrews 1:1,2 "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son"), that is God expresses Himself in Jesus, and we find in Matthew 5:17 that "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them". So Jesus perfectly embodies what we refer to as the "Ten Commandments". Thus He is truly the "Word of God". And there is agreement between the OT and the NT. Wonderful!

Thanks for letting me comment. I shall continue to follow your journey with interest.

In Him.

B. Niles said...

Hi Red, this is my first visit to your blog. Nice blog, great questions. I think Arbee did a great job in clarifying some things.

At my new home church I've recently sat in on a Sunday school class where they are also reading through the bible. It sounds like we're in about the same passages as you are. As I listened in to the way the laws were being addressed I was actually a little perturbed. I don't think that we can read the Old Testament without refering back to the New Testament now that we are under a new dispensation. As Arbee quoted, Jesus did say he didn't come to abolish the law but to fulfill it and we are now under a dispensation of grace.

For example, Jesus told the expert teacher of the law who was trying to trap him in asking him which law was the most important in Matthew 22:37, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Remember also the incident with Cornelius, the devout and God-fearing Gentile? God sent Peter to bring him the good news. But first he spoke to Peter in a dream and laid before him a large sheet with all kinds of "unclean" animals and told Peter to get up, kill and eat. (Acts 10) Peter was appalled. But God said to him, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." (See also Colossians 2:6-17. The Colossian Christians had similar questions as well and how Paul dealt with the questions.)

I think it is important to remember the differences between the Jews and the Gentiles in OT and the purpose for God creating and separating out the Israelite nation for himself. (Don't want to make my comments any longer so I won't get into it further.) But I find it difficult to read the OT without making references back to the NT and that was my suggestion to the Sunday School teacher as well.

I hope I didn't muddy the water further with my comments. Visit my blog when you get a chance at www.wealthofcharacter.blogspot.com.

I think your questions are great. May the Lord give you the enlightenment you seek as you study his word.


Red said...

thanks Arbee and Beverley. great and helpful comments, and welcome to you both! Much for me to think about..
red x