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Archive for June, 2012

Just a slight deviation from the OT law series today.. it can get quite dry talking about it every day.

I’ve been reading “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster. It’s really an amazing book that transformed my inner life and the way I approach various Christian disciplines.

One of the points he made on the discipline of solitude, is that a result of solitude is losing the need to justify our every action towards man.

“”We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding”.. “One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don’t need to straighten others out.”

This got me really thinking about the words I speak to people all the time. Every time I feel someone may have gotten the wrong impression of me, I speak to justify myself. I believe that Foster is speaking of this bondage that we have to others, requiring us to be fully justified before others to be at peace.

I do agree that there is an excess of self-justification today, but I do not believe in no justification at all.

As much as solitude is a desirable aspect of inner life, there is a need to function in human society, as well as the body of Christ. Due to our lack of full knowledge and sinful nature, we tend to jump to the worse conclusions about people, imagine the deadliest consequences, and assume personal motives. Thus, there is always a need to maintain relationships through the explanation of one’s actions. One of today’s experiences taught me this the hard way. We are called in the body of Christ to build up one another, not being a stumbling block. Thus, it should be love that governs each word we speak.

Justification should then be made when it concerns another person who may be negatively affected. Other than that, there is really no need to be so quick to justify or push the blame to others.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
James 1:19

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Previously, I mentioned that the Mosaic Law consisted of different types of laws. While the temple and Jewish laws were specifically meant for the Israelite nation during the dispensation of law, some of these laws are extremely relevant to us today. By us, I refer specifically to Gentile believers living during this period of time- the dispensation of grace.

For the sake of convenience, I will refer to these laws as Universal Moral laws, or UM laws.

Before I begin, I would like to remind all that there is no justification through the following of the law, for our righteousness before God is not of our own, but through faith in Christ(Philippians 3:9). Instead, the grace we have received in Christ inspires us into obedience, and the law reveals the holy standard of God to which we conform ourselves to.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 was a prophecy of the time when God’s spirit will be living within us, and it places this truth aptly:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

In fact, the New Testament itself contains more than 1000 laws, outnumbering that of the OT’s of 613. All these commandments should therefore, be approached from a starting point of grace, and obeying them does not justify us any more than Christ already has for us.

Now if you would take a look at some of these UM laws, you would realize that some of them are presented in two parts, the command and the consequence for breaking the command.

 If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die.
Deutoronomy 22:22 

Other examples may be found in Leviticus 19-20.

I believe all will agree that the command part of the law is a standard of God’s holiness, which is unchanging and absolutely morally correct. It is applicable to all people, living at all periods of time.

And finally the question we are really concerned about: Should we be applying the consequence part of the law as well?

When I posed this question to the people I met, one of the most convincing responses was this;

that God’s words will were, are, and always will be perfect. His laws are not based on man, but are an intrinsic standard arising from His holiness. Therefore, all parts of the law should ideally be applied to all people. However, due to the hardness of our hearts, it is not good to apply it wholly as it may cause disagreement or rebellion.

This convinced me for a while, but I realized that I had a few problems with it.

His laws actually were based on man! From two aspects, may I persuade you-

1. The law originated because of the sinfulness of man. They needed a standard to know God’s holiness, and then be enabled to obey Him, through following the command part of the law.

2. As for the consequence, an observation from the OT is that God uses punishment to draw people back to righteousness. The consequences of the law would cause the transgressor to realize their wrong and repent, so that they will be reconciled with God. This I believe, is the higher purpose of the consequences.

3. The consequence part of the law was also God’s response to the hardness of man’s heart. When someone does something wrong against us, we desire fair judgement to be done. This is alright, but some may desire revenge, which comes from the sinful nature. In order to prevent them from exercising their own judgement, which will differ greatly and be inspired by personal motives, God gives a standard of punishment to ensure orderliness. This standard of punishment was only given to the Israelites living during the dispensation of the law. 

Thus, I believe that the consequence part of the UM laws should not be directly applied to Gentiles today;

– Because it was meant to draw people back to righteousness, and not to fulfill any requirement

– Because it depends on the judgement of man, which is variable from culture to culture, generation to generation.

In the next post, I will elaborate more on these two points, and give more substantive biblical references.

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Wow, I’ve never been this inactive before. Many things have happened since the mission trip to Philippines, in my spiritual life as well as ministry. It hasn’t been totally good, but it has been a good experience.

Now about the OT law; this is one issue that I’ve been thinking about for a few months, and have discussed with many people about it. Two of them were spiritual mentors whose Biblical views I trust, and another two of them were lawyers I knew. Who could be better to ask than that! 🙂 While I have come to a conclusion on this matter, there will be many who disagree. But to each his own faith! So if you find yourself among that group of people, then go according to your own conviction- do not be affected by my views.

Note: This post will be written over a few parts

A while ago, I was discussing with an atheist on the Law of the OT, and we started talking about some of the extreme punishments that the Mosiac law distributed for seemingly less harmful transgressions. For example,

“If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife —with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”
Leviticus 20:10

In Singapore, we have no laws against adultery- a vast difference compared to the Israelite nation at that time. So this question came into mind- does this mean that we’re doing it wrong? And then, to be living Biblically, should every society follow the law exactly as it pronounces judgement?

Now before I carry on, I understand that there are now a lot of implications between the faith and politics, governance, orderliness and so on.. I am however, not qualified enough to touch on all that. For this post, the issue I am really addressing is- Did God mean for the OT law to be applied to all communities and nations, throughout generations?

Different kinds of laws
When God made His covenant with Abraham, he had in mind a Holy nation, set apart for Him. This nation was to be like no other in the world. Not that God loved them more than others, but He wanted to use this nation to bring His standards of holiness, and the knowledge and experience of Him into the world. This was the nation of Israel.

Thus, when God brought them out of Egypt, He decided to put into place different kinds of laws. Some would reflect His ultimate holiness, while some others would be a foretelling of what was to come in the future. And some, well, came out of the Israelites’ way of life.

Below is a list of three different categories. I have enjoyed reading Dan Juster’s “Jewish Roots”, and these names are from there.

a. Temple Laws
These were very specific instructions on carrying out the sacrificial procedures in the temple, as well as for the priests. An example:

The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the Lord by fire.
Leviticus 23:27

We do not carry out the sacrifices mentioned in the OT because we understand that the ultimate sacrifice has already been made for us!

But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.
Hebrews 10:12

However, this does not mean that these verses are no longer relevant to us. Many of the laws on the temple and sacrifices were a foreshadow of Christ, who was to come to take away our sins. They bring us into a deeper understanding of the atonement Jesus made for us. Also, the OT sacrifices were meant to remind the Israelites of their sin! As much as they have their reminders, we have ours- communion that we partake as a body of Christ leads us into remembrance of His love and sacrifice for us.

Back to the issue, I believe that God does not require us to follow the temples laws because:
1. They were meant for the Jewish nation, who had a calling to be set apart for God, during that period of time.
2. Christ has made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Therefore we do not remind ourselves of sin, but of grace, through communion.

b. Jewish Laws
Some of the laws were set because of the culture and heritage of the Israelite nation. One example was that God told them never to go back to Egypt, but to move on to the promised land that He had for them. The intention of this law was for the Israelites to trust in God’s promised providence, and not to return to slavery which God had brought them out of.

If you have the time to read through all the laws, you would be able to spot a few more, the laws for Nazirites in Numbers 6.

c. Universal Moral
These laws are a reflection of God’s holy nature, and His standards of righteousness. Do not murder, do not bear false witness, etc.. They are extremely easy to spot because they bear a lot of similarity with the conscience that we hold. 

“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law..  ..since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness..”
Romans 2:14-15

I believe that when God creates all men in His image, His holy standards are also written on our hearts, so that we can look at an action as define it as “wrong” or “right”. Thus, these laws in the Mosiac law are for everyone. God meant for everyone, of every generation to follow them.

Now we then be wondering- should we then also carry out the consequences that God defined for these laws?

I’ll be answering it in part 2, when I have the time again to write 🙂

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