The Decalogue Was an Expression of Grace

“First, Christian readers in particular should note, as the preamble to the Decalogue points out, that, although the requirements of obedience to the covenant as expressed in the Ten Commandments are central to Israel’s identity as God’s people, they hold neither chronological nor theological priority. YHWH gave Israel the Decalogue, and its extension in the Torah as a whole, only after YHWH had redeemed and delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage in fulfillment of an unconditional promise made to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This commentary will return to this fundamental observation repeatedly because it is essential as a corrective against Christian misunderstandings and caricatures of the Torah and of the Old Testament as a whole.”

– Mark Biddle, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy, p. 103

Questions & Answers with Scriptural Proofs

Question: When we were chosen for salvation?

Answer: Before the foundation of the world.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…. Eph. 1:3-5a

Question: Who did God choose before the foundation of the world? Jew only, Gentile only, or Jew and Gentile alike?

Answer: Jew and Gentile alike.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh … remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Eph. 2:11-12

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel….This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…. Eph. 3:6-11

Question: How were the Gentiles to participate in salvation?

Answer: By participating in the covenants of promise made to Israel; by being united to the commonwealth of Israel. By being “brought near.”

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, …remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph 2:11-13

Question: Does God have one people or two?

Answer: “Christ’s reconciliation entails uniting all people, whether Jew or Gentile, into his one body, the church, as a new creation.”[1]

“There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Eph. 4:4-6

Question: What are the two main themes of the book of Ephesians?

Answer:

1) Christ has reconciled all creation to himself and to God, and

2) Christ has united people from all nations to himself and to one another in his church. [2]

Question: In light of having been saved, what kind of lives ought we to live?

Answer: Live of holiness and blamelessness, striving to imitate Christ in all that we do.

I therefore…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…. [Y]ou must no longer walk as the Gentiles do…. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.…

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires… Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. … Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise…. Eph. 4:1 – 5:15

Question: Where do we find the way of light?

Answer: It is portrayed in the laws of God and in the life of Jesus who lived out those laws perfectly.

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life. Proverbs 6:23

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD, and teach me your rules.

Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.

I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.

Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.” Psalm 119:97-115

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Question: Does God have one way of life for the Gentile and a different way of life for the Jew?

Answer: There is one law which condemns all, whether Jew or Gentile, if they do not follow it; likewise there is one law which instructs all, whether Jew or Gentile, once they become children of God.

There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you. Ex. 12:49

One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you. Num. 15:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. … Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Rom. 1:16-18, 32

Question: Where is the decree of God that Paul refers to in Romans 1:32?

Answer: In the Torah.  e.g., Lev 19:11; Lev. 18:22; Lev 20:13…

 

Question: What is sin?

Answer: Sin is lawlessness.

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4

A quote from John Wesley:

I am afraid this great and important truth is little understood, not only by the world, but even by many whom God has taken out of the world, who are real children of God by faith.

Many of these lay it down as an unquestioned truth, that when we come to Christ, we have done with the law; and that, in this sense, “Christ is the end of the law to everyone that believeth.”

The “end of the law:” so he is, “for righteousness,” for justification, “to everyone that believeth.” Herein the law is at an end. It justifies none, but only brings them to Christ; who is also, in another respect, the end or scope of the law, — the point at which it continually aims.

But when it has brought us to him it has yet a farther office, namely, to keep us with him. For it is continually exciting all believers, the more they see of its height, and depth, and length, and breadth, to exhort one another so much the more —

Closer and closer let us cleave
To his beloved Embrace;
Expect his fullness to receive,
And grace to answer grace.[3]


[1] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2260.

[2] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2258.

[3] John Wesley, Sermon #34 – The Original Nature, Property, and Use of the Law

Clean or Down the Drain?

Many students of  Scripture consider Mark 7:19 to be a slam dunk indicating that God considers all food clean and available for eating. Rabbi Dr. John Fischer provided the most succinct analysis of Mark 7:19 that I’ve ever encountered. This is significant because analyzing the passage can be a very complicated exercise.

His article “Jesus Through Jewish Eyes” is excellent it’s entirety, but the Appendix “Are All Foods Clean? or Down the Drain!” can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the page.

A Strictly Literal Rendering of Mark 7:19

"…because it enters not of him into the heart but into the belly, and into the drain goes out, purging all the food."

Contextual Analysis of Mark 7:19

1.  "Food" by definition in Yeshua’s context is only what is kosher!

2. The context of this text deals with hand-washing not eating food or what is kosher.

3. The point of the passage (as emphasized by Mt. 15:20b) is "eating with unwashed hands—not eating non-kosher food—does not make a person unclean."

The American Dream is Dangerous

I heard this morning that the United States is now the third largest mission field in the world. How did this happen? Amazingly to most of us, the Torah anticipated just such a scenario:

[T]he author [of Deuteronomy] was writing to well-to-do landowners. He was concerned that they remember from whence they came and on whom they needed to rely. He treated their economic prosperity as a threat to their required humility before God. He sought to counter this tendency to self-sufficiency by reminding them of their past slavery; and of their dependence on God for a bountiful harvest. He limited their ambitions by emphasizing the need for sabbath rest, and sabbath years. The requirement to rejoice and hold feasts also served to restrict their utilitarianism. He believed that they themselves were not ultimately responsible for their prosperity, and that they would be in the position of the widow, fatherless and alien if tragedy befell them.[1]

Something about the way I’m wired means that everywhere I look I see the consequences of bad theology. To me it’s like looking at heat under infrared, the connections are so glaring and direct. America was settled on the basis of a dangerous and diabolic theology called Manifest Destiny (more on that in another post), and when the impetus of that cooled a new twist was thrown into our lives during the 1950s. Having driven men to misinterpret the Torah, the Adversary now drove them to ignore it. Loosed from our moorings, without an eternal standard of morality, we lost any ability to accurately recognize injustice, and lost the benefit of the practical life instruction God had included for His people.

These days, gratitude is a thing of the past; I see more athletes pound their own chest after a great play than point a finger toward heaven. I hear even pastors talk about how they were a “champion for Jesus” and you can be one too, if you’ll just pull yourself up by your own boot straps and take the initiative like they did.

Today overwhelming percentages even of the well-to-do can be described as fatherless, and waves and waves of people feel lost and alien in their own culture. We have lost our way and substituted the American Dream for the biblical prescriptions; often by reinterpreting biblical language to support our misguided priorities.


[1]Christiana van Houten, The Alien in Israelite Law (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991), 106.

Cultural Relevance

I have often heard Ron Allen discuss how dangerous it is to adopt a cultural rather than a biblical hermeneutic, and I entirely agree.

On the other hand, I also highly value the following statement from Alan Mann.

[T]he gospel narrative should not become a museum piece, and neither should the theology and cultural awareness that we derive from them. We need to read and reread the atonement [among other theological issues – NL] as time and place change the context in which we are called to communicate the salvific work of Christ.

What would one call or how would one express the appropriate balance between those two seeming extremes?[1]


[1] Alan Mann, Atonement for a ‘Sinless’ Society (Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2008 reprint) 3

Explaining My Life

“The test of each story is the sort of person it shapes,”[1] and (as the authors of that comment would grant) the sort of community it shapes. “The practice of community establishment and maintenance was at the center of the social ethic of earliest Christianity”[2] as it has been of the First Testament’s social ethic.[3]

There in a single, two-sentence, paragraph is an excellent description of what is, perhaps, my cardinal conviction regarding the nature and purpose of Scripture (and God’s intention for it); a conviction that shapes my life, the expenditure of my time and energy, and is the goal of my pursuits.


[1] Stanley Hauerwas and David Burrell, “From System to Story,” in Why Narrative? ed. Stanley Hauerwas and L. Gregory Jones (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), pp. 158–90; see p. 185; reprinted from Stanley Hauerwas, Truthfulness and Tragedy (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1977), pp. 15–39; see p. 35.

[2] James W. McClendon, “The Practice of Community Formation,” in Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition: Christian Ethics after MacIntyre, ed. Nancey Murphy et al. (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity, 1997), pp. 86–110, see p. 102.

[3] John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Volume 3: Israel’s Life (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 14.

Language Can Change the World

It is important to be aware of the principle that, as the American philosopher, Peter Kreeft, noted recently, ‘Control the language and you control thought; control thought and you control action; control action and you control the world.’ [1] In the last few decades there has been a covert emptying-out, and re-filling of certain key words with new meanings. This process subtly modifies how we perceive and deploy the original word, and also how we consider the matter to which it pertains.

The most obvious example is the term ‘partner’, which is now the only acceptable term in the public realm for ‘wife’ or ‘husband’. But far more is at stake here. Referring to a wife or husband as a ‘partner’ in effect neuters the concepts of ‘wife’ and ‘husband’, stripping them of the whole range of meanings, including those of sex, gender, permanence and sexual exculsivity. ‘Partner’ simply means ‘my present domestic (including sexual) VIP’. However, this meaning rides on the back of the traditional meanings associated with the words ‘wife’ or ‘husband’ and, in so doing, loosens the moorings of collective meaning and value which used to be attached to them. [2]

What does this mean? What is another example of the changing of the definition of a word? Consider the word “natural”

Let’s differentiate between two meanings of the word natural. The first … is ‘what we can infer from the design of Creation.’ The second is ‘anything that occurs in Nature’ … Whatever people do with these body parts can be termed ‘natural’ in that second definition, a label that appears to hallow whatever it touches. But there’s a problem. If ‘natural’ means ‘anything that happens’, there are absolutely no limits. Anything that anyone can think of doing with his sex organs has to be called natural. [3]

We must resist the re-defining of language. We already face a world where “unity” has been redefined as uniformity; where “dissent” has been called “intolerant” and where peace is defined as the absence of dissent.

The truth is that, as Adlai Stevenson said, “A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular.”, and in trying to make themselves more popular the homosexual agenda has made us all less safe.

Evil people exploit good people by persuading them that it is wrong to call evil by its name. – James Hitchcock

_______________________

[1] Peter Kreeft, Boston College Observer, April 2004

As a philosopher the thing that strikes me most is the brilliant strategy of the gay marriage movement. Like Orwell in 1984 it sees that the main battlefield is language. If [gay advocates] can redefine a key term like ‘marriage’ they win. Control language and you control thought; control though and you control action; control action and you control the world.

[2] Noland, Sugden & Finch, eds. God, Gays and the Church: Human Sexuality and Experience in Christian Thinking (London: The Latimer Trust, 2008), 234.

[3] Frederica Matthewes-Green, “Bodies of Evidence”, June 2005; http://touchstonemage.com/archives/articles.php?id=18-05-027-f