Post by henrythee3rd on Oct 24, 2013 18:40:32 GMT -5
Hi Pastor Mike, What were all the guidelines (?) in Leviticus for? For instance, Leviticus 19:19 says, "...you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials." A lot of it seems very specific. Is this (Leviticus) part of the "law" that Jesus fulfilled? ("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."-Matt. 5:17) What is the "law" he is talking about? Also, was it possible to do all the things in Leviticus without fault?-I'm not sure if this is what is meant in Philippians 3 (For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:... as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.)
Post by Mike Miller on Oct 29, 2013 10:15:12 GMT -5
The 613 laws of the Old Testament were more than guidelines. They were laws. In other words, they weren't just suggestions; they were commands. Some of them make a lot of sense to us, such as the command in Leviticus 19:26 not to make one's daughter a prostitute. However, some passages, such as Leviticus 19:19, are more difficult to understand. I mean, am I not supposed to wear a cotton/poly blend? This is why we need to do 2 things. First, we need to try to understand the heart of each individual command. What's it really about,and is there a timeless principle I still need to apply to my own life? Second, we need to seek how to understand and apply those commands as members of the New Covenant.
So, what about those strange laws? Why were God's people prohibited from cross-breeding animals, sowing different seeds in the same field, and wearing blended materials? This seems to relate to the overall emphasis on holiness. The word "holy" means "set apart," and God's people were (and are) to be different than those around them. To drive this point home, God extended the concept of holiness even to the non-religious aspects of life. Think of it as everything having its respective sphere of existence. Specific breeds of animals and kinds of seeds were to remain separate--in their proper spheres. Even kinds of cloth were to maintain their proper spheres. In other words, everything in the Hebrew culture was to reflect the basic principle of holiness.
Of course, there were probably practical reasons for this as well. Cross-breeding can lead to genetic disasters, and cross-planting can lead to decreased yield. Bear in mind that at the time, they did not have the scientific awareness we have today. God was likely protecting them. One principle here could actually be to steward God's creation and our livelihood well.
Then we see strange things like Exodus 23:19 that prohibits the boiling of a young goat in its mother's milk. What? I'm pretty sure that's a command I won't have trouble keeping. But then we learn that some of the pagan cults in Canaan would boil baby goats in their mother's milk as a fertility ritual. They thought it could help their livestock breed. They even thought it would help their wives conceive. So, basically, God is commanding His people not to participate in the religious activities of the people in the land they were to inhabit. That is a timeless principle that we too should heed. So, we might commend ourselves because we don't boil baby goats in their mother's milk, but at the same time, if we read our horoscopes or carry around good luck charms, we are violating the principle. We need to avoid all superstitious and occultic practices.
Like I said, we want to get to the heart of these commands to draw out any timeless principles that we should apply today. We are not trying to keep the letter of the law, but we want to live our lives in ways that honor God.
Now, as to how to understand the laws of the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament. First, we need to understand that Jesus kept the law perfectly, and when we come to Him by faith, His perfect righteousness is imputed to us. In other words, we will be judged--not on our own righteousness--but on the complete righteousness of Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-31; Philippians 3:9). This is such good news, because as Romans 3:20 and Galatians 3:11 teach, no one can be made right with God by keeping the law. We are only saved by faith.
Now, this does not mean that I am free to sin against God with abandon now. Rather, I need to live by and in the Spirit of God. Romans 7:6 says, "But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code." In other words, I am not bound by rules, but I am bound by the Holy Spirit to live according to the spirit of the law.
Let me explain it like this. The Bible gives lots of commands about how we are to treat each other. However, I might find a loophole. Maybe the Bible doesn't specifically say that I shouldn't trip people as they walk by me. So, I go around tripping people, all the while congratulating myself for not breaking any of the laws. However, the spirit of the law is that I should love others. Tripping isn't loving, even if I've not been told specifically not to trip people. So, I am not under a written code, but I am living by the Spirit. This is what Jesus was getting at in Matthew 5:21-30 when talking about murder and adultery. Just keeping specific words does not make a person right with God. This is also why Jesus said that all the commands of God hang on two primary commands: loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:34-40). So, I'm saved by faith in Jesus' perfect righteousness and His finished work on the cross. However, if I'm truly saved, I will begin to obey God--not by trying to keep the letter of the law--but by loving God and loving others.
We need to realize that the law is good and holy, but Jesus has kept and fulfilled it for us. Because of this, some of the law is no longer in effect, while some of it is reinforced in the New Testament. For example, the Old Testament had lots of laws about cleanliness (coming into contact with certain things made a person unclean). We know that we have to be clean to approach God. However, we also know that in Jesus we are all made clean (Ephesians 5:26; Titus 2:12; 2 Peter 1:9; 1 John 1:7). We are no longer required to maintain the dietary laws of the Old Testament because Jesus declared all foods clean in Mark 7:19. We no longer adhere to the sacrificial laws because Jesus offered Himself as the final sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27, 10:11-14). However, the New Testament reaffirms the laws related to immorality (adultery, fornication, homosexuality, etc.) and worship (only one God). In fact, 9 of the 10 commandments of Exodus 20 are affirmed in the New Testament (the only one that is not is the keeping of the Sabbath). We should only worship God, we should not steal, we should obey our parents, etc.
The important thing to know about the law is that it was never intended to save anyone. The law was given to show us how sinful we are so that we would know how desperately we need a Savior. Salvation is only through faith in Jesus Christ--who He is and what He did.
I know I've given you a very long explanation. I hope somewhere in here I've answered your questions. If not, feel free to follow up.
Post by henrythee3rd on Oct 29, 2013 16:50:52 GMT -5
You did answer my questions. Thank you! You said, "...some of the law is no longer in effect, while some of it is reinforced in the New Testament." Why are those commandments reaffirmed in the New Testament? You had stated that we "want to live our lives in ways that honor God," and mentioned "timeless principles"–is that why? but what makes a timeless principle?
Post by Mike Miller on Oct 29, 2013 16:58:15 GMT -5
Those commands are reaffirmed in the Old Testament because they relate to living in ways that demonstrate our love for God and our love for others. However, certain commands are no longer in practice because Jesus put an end to them (such as with cleanliness, diet, and sacrifice). There is no longer any need for them. There is still the need, for example, not to murder or steal.
What I mean by timeless principles are those principles at the heart of the laws that are appropriate for every generation and culture. For example, the command not to boil a young goat in its mother's milk is not a timeless command because that is not a practice observed today (at least in our culture). However, the principle of not participating in pagan rituals is timeless because it is in line with the command to love God. Therefore, when we run into what are essentially foreign concepts for us, we need to look for those foundational principles that will apply across cultures and generations.