God’s Law: Introduction

Do you love the law of God?  King David wrote, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”  (Psalm 119:97).  Christians like to think about God’s love, His mercy, and His grace.  We are quick to be grateful for God’s forgiveness when we break His law (and we should be grateful for this of course).  But when was the last time you thanked God for His law?  God’s law is good and was given for our benefit.  God gave us commandments not to encumber us, but to free us so that we can enjoy our lives as fully as possible.  God knows how the universe works; after all, He made it.  And He gave us some instructions in His Word about how the universe works and how we are to behave if we are going to fully enjoy God’s blessings in our lives.

Consider what the Lord says through Moses in Deuteronomy 6:1–3:  “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.”

This passage makes it clear that God’s commandments are for the benefit of His people: that they would enjoy long life in a blessed land, and that it would go well with them and their descendants.  For that reason, God’s people are supposed to appreciate the law.

Consider Deuteronomy 6:6–9: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  This passage makes it clear that we are supposed to think about God’s law, and talk about how good it is.  God’s law should be constantly on our mind (symbolized by the forehead in verse 8), and evidenced in our actions (symbolized by the hand).

Many Christians today have misconceptions of God’s law.  And this can make it difficult for us to really appreciate how wonderful the law is, and why we really should obey it.  Some misconceptions are (1) that God’s law is very harsh and unloving, (2) that we are not under any obligation to keep God’s law because we are “under grace,” (3) that God’s law applied only to Israel, (4) that God’s law applied only in the Old Testament, and (5) that obedience to God’s law merits eternal salvation.  These misunderstandings can hinder our appreciation of God’s law and our obedience to it.  So we will deal with these notions in this series, and will search the Scriptures to find what they say about the law of God.

67 Responses to God’s Law: Introduction

  1. Brian Forbes says:

    I read your whole series of posts, and I was very pleased! I love God’s law!!

    I had a few ideas as I read, and I hope they are helpful to you.

    1. You didn’t address the matter of foods. People could take these laws several ways. If God didn’t like people eating pork or shrimp before, why would he like it now? Some point to Acts 15, which says we don’t have to keep anything, save the 4 listed. (Acts 15:20) Of course that is probably contradicted in every epistle in the NT, among other reasons. Some people point to Mark 7:19. But then they’re shocked to find that that little parenthetical was added by the translators. It only says “purging all meats”. (Don’t [sic] me on this – I’m protesting the period/quote convention! http://biblos.com/mark/7-19.htm) I see it as seeing a pornographic video vs. wanting to see a pornographic video. It’s also like being force fed pork vs. going out and ordering it off a menu. There are many other passages to cite, but it’s going to take a lot of space to do it. I will just use one more. You used Mt. 5 several times. I just wanted to point out that Jesus said that anyone who practices the least of the commands (of Moses and the prophets) will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. “The Kingdom” is New Covenant language.

    2. I just heard John 3:16 on Sunday. They continued on to v. 17. That made me wonder what came next. I read to the end of the sermon. We never hear people quote Jesus saying that we need to keep from evil, and that those who do evil want to hide it, but those who are righteous are not afraid to shine. Is the famous part in v. 16 more important than the admonition against evil in v. 20? I think you’ll agree with me on this point.

    3. You gave Galations 4:9-11 as evidence that we don’t need to keep festivals. I advise that you look at v. 8. It seems to me that the passage is about pagan festivals (e.g. Halloween).

    4. You wrote, “Christians obey God—not to earn salvation—but out of gratitude for that unmerited gift of salvation.” Amen. We are sons, not slaves. We don’t have to keep any law at all, but we do. We want to. And anyone who doesn’t want to doesn’t have the Father. (1 John 1:5-7) If we keep sinning, we no longer have a means of acquiring forgiveness either. (Heb. 10:25-26)

    5. It seems to me that God does judge people based on their works. When he separates the sheep and goats in Mt. 25, he says that one side did things, the other did not. He says in the parallel passage of Mt. 7:23 that many will be shocked that they didn’t qualify. To me, it seems that the reason given is that they did evil – anomian. (http://biblos.com/matthew/7-23.htm) So our deeds, both good and bad, will play a part in the judgment.

    6. I just want to thank you for pointing out the things you have. This message has focused on our differences, but I’ve found more common ground with you than most people I talk about this with. Thank you for your work!

    7. Zech 14 “On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. 7 It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime–a day known to the LORD. When evening comes, there will be light. 8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. 9 The LORD will be king over the whole earth.”
    In other words, it hasn’t happened yet.
    “16 Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. …all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them.”

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Brian,

      1. I may come back to the issue of dietary restrictions in more detail in a future entry. These were part of the ceremonial laws that pointed forward to the New Testament. The dietary laws symbolized the separation between Jews and Gentiles. But in the New Testament, salvation is extended the Gentiles; so these two people groups are united in Christ. Christians are the people of God in the New Testament, whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 2:10-11, Acts 10:34-35). We no longer hold to the Old Testament shadow encapsulated in the dietary laws. But we do hold to the substance of those laws (e.g. by not being unequally yoked with an unbeliever).

      2. Both verses are important. We are saved by grace through faith – not by works. Yet, the person who is totally unconcerned with obedience is not genuinely saved (see James 2:14).

      3. No – that doesn’t fit the context. In Galatians, Paul is speaking to Jews, and warning them not to go back to the Old Testament system. That system served a purpose before Christ – it pointed forward to Him. But now that Christ is come, the Old Testament administration (animal sacrifices, circumcision, etc.) is “worthless.”

      4. Yes, though I should probably clarify. We do have a moral obligation to keep the law of God. But our salvation does not depend on us keeping the law; it is entirely by God’s grace received through faith. If we keep sinning (in a willful way – sinning for the sake of sinning), then there is no more forgiveness. This is what the passage in Hebrews means. It’s not referring to the besetting sins that Christians continue to commit even after salvation.

      5. If God judged people based on works, then no one would be found acceptable. Our salvation is 100% dependent on God’s grace received by faith in Christ. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life can escape the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). However, good works will naturally follow those who are genuinely saved. If our bad deeds play any part whatsoever in our judgment, then it would mean that Christ’s atonement on the cross was not enough!

      What about those verses that indicate that those who go to heaven are those who “do good” (e.g. John 5:28-29)? Does this indicate salvation by works? No! It indicates a correlation between works and salvation, but works are not the cause. A faith that saves is a faith that produces good works. Good works are not the cause of salvation; they are the effect of salvation. So naturally, the saved are those who “do good” – out of gratitude for their salvation.

      6. Thanks.

      7. I’m not going to get into details of eschatology on this blog. Sorry. John Gill says about this verse, referring to the feast of tabernacles or booths, “not literally, but spiritually; for, as all the Jewish feasts have been long since abolished, having had their accomplishment in Christ, not one of them will ever be revived in the latter day. This feast was originally kept in commemoration of the Israelites dwelling in tents in the wilderness, and was typical of Christ’s incarnation, who was made flesh, and tabernacled among us; so that to keep this feast is no other than to believe in Christ as come in the flesh, and in the faith of this to attend to the Gospel feast of the word and ordinances…”

      Thanks for posting.

      • Brian Forbes says:

        1. That’s in interesting take. I look forward to seeing your (current 😉 ) view in more detail. Clearly, Peter’s vision hints at what you said.

        I will make one observation, though. As you may remember, I believe everyone has some bias and is, therefore, not perfectly rational. Do you think that the answer to this question of foods would change for someone who is already eating unclean meats? If they stopped eating them and planned never to do it again, would (not should – would) their answer be different? Doesn’t what we want to be true play a role in what we find to be true? A parallel question that you might be able to compare with, being that you’re a man, is modesty. Should women be modest at the beach (or in parks in NYC)? A woman might have a tougher time coming to the truth of that one, because she actually has to live with the decision. There’s a biblical standard for modesty (neck to knee, even hair to some degree), but we’re not doing it in America. If we were, it might be easier to promote.

        2, 4, & 5 (combined as “grace”). I think we’re closer to one another on this than our arguments would let on. We are absolutely saved by the grace of God, and more than just the grace afforded to us with the cross. We are given life. We aren’t punished immediately. We are given eyes to see. We have messengers sent to us. The list goes on and on. Everything about our salvation comes by God’s grace. We are given grace through faith (which is, itself, a form of grace). And faith without deeds is dead in the same way the body without the spirit is dead. I really don’t see a conflict here.

        An interesting thought with regard to grace: God saved Daniel, but he let Stephen die. Grace doesn’t always make sense.

        An ice cube is melted by heat, not fire. The heat dies without the fire. Sometimes we just never see the ice cube melt, and you can sometimes have heat without fire. And as it is with heat, God can see things that we do not.

        7. With this one, your answer surprised me a little. It assumes that the feasts are abolished to prove that the passage is figurative. It’s like assuming miracles don’t happen when you read Genesis 1.

        Passover, among many other instructions, was to be forever. (Ex. 12:21-24)

        What’s the plain reading?
        Zeph. 3
        8 So now the LORD says: “Be patient; the time is coming soon when I will stand up and accuse these evil nations. … and pour out my fiercest anger and fury on them. … 10 My scattered people who live beyond the rivers of Ethiopia will come to present their offerings. … 12 Those who are left will be the lowly and the humble, for it is they who trust in the name of the LORD.”

        It has little to do with our discussion, but I really like verse 12. Simple faith is better than arrogant accusation and speculation, especially where it comes to reading scripture. I’d rather be found guilty of simple trust, in the end. I don’t know a more humble posture than admitting that I don’t know.

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          Hi Brian,

          > I will make one observation, though. As you may remember, I believe everyone has some bias and is, therefore, not perfectly rational.

          A bias is not necessarily irrational or a hindrance to knowledge; a bias can be helpful if it is true. That the Bible is God’s Word is a type of bias, and it leads to knowledge.

          > Do you think that the answer to this question of foods would change for someone who is already eating unclean meats? If they stopped eating them and planned never to do it again, would (not should – would) their answer be different? Doesn’t what we want to be true play a role in what we find to be true?

          Yes. People are not always rational. Their beliefs can be influenced by what they want to be true. But of course, that doesn’t mean we should be that way. Christians are supposed to think in a way that is consistent with the nature of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). We should strive to be careful that our reasons for a belief are legitimate, and not simply the result of what we would like to be the case.

          > Everything about our salvation comes by God’s grace. We are given grace through faith (which is, itself, a form of grace). And faith without deeds is dead in the same way the body without the spirit is dead.

          Yes – all correct.

          > An interesting thought with regard to grace: God saved Daniel, but he let Stephen die. Grace doesn’t always make sense.

          God gives different amounts of grace to different people. Besides, both Daniel and Stephen did eventually die. And both now enjoy eternal life with God. The acts of God’s grace in our life on earth are good, but pale in comparison to His act of grace in giving us faith in His Son, so that we may spend all eternity with Him.

          > 7. With this one, your answer surprised me a little. It assumes that the feasts are abolished to prove that the passage is figurative.

          No. We know the passage is figurative by virtue of the type of literature. This is a prophetic passage. Biblically prophecies abound in figurative language. (e.g., the trees do not literally clap their hands at the coming of the Lord in Isaiah 55:12). Gill here was demonstrating the correct application of a very important hermeneutical principle. We interpret the less clear (or figurative) passages in Scripture in light of the clear narratives and teaching principles. The apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear in many passages that the Old Testament administration has passed away (Galatians 3:23-25, 4:9-10, 5:1-6, 11-12). Therefore, we use this principle to help us understand the figures of speech that the Bible uses. We never use the figures to re-interpret the literal.

          >It’s like assuming miracles don’t happen when you read Genesis 1.

          Genesis 1 is historical narrative. Its style is much more literal than the prophetic passages. It is very important to read the Bible in context – taking into consideration the type of literature that is being presented. We are not supposed to take the Psalms in a wooden-literal sense. Neither are we supposed to take Genesis as poetry. We interpret each section of Scripture according to the style of literature that it is.

          > Passover, among many other instructions, was to be forever. (Ex. 12:21-24)

          No. God told the Israelites to observe this perpetually. Therefore, it would be wrong for them to cease from this unless God tells them. But here’s the point: God has told them. God is allowed to make changes to His law (Hebrews 7:12). And He has told His people that the Old Testament administration no longer applies.

          More importantly, those Old Testament ceremonial laws were symbolic for the coming Savior (Hebrews 9:9-10). But now that the object of those symbols has come, they are useless (Hebrews 7:18) because they point forward to nothing, and have been set aside as a result. In a sense, we do keep those Old Testament ceremonial laws when we receive Christ – the substance to which they all pointed. Passover involved the sacrifice of a Lamb so that the people might be spared. Now what could that possibly symbolize? 😉 Every Christian does keep the substance of the Passover when he or she receives Christ as Savior – the Lamb who was slain so that we might live. There is no longer need for the symbolic ritual; the actual Savior has come!

          • Brian Forbes says:

            It appears your entire argument hinges on your interpretation of Galatians. I just read the whole book again, because I found that those passages you cited were hard to interpret out of context. The most difficult passage in that book (for me) is found in 2:14. It turns out, the more translations you read, the more confusing the passage gets. It didn’t help to go to the word by word translation I would normally use either. So I went back to the guy who shaped my opinion the most on this topic. He has his own translation of the scriptures, and he wouldn’t be found dead with the title of “Christian” – he’s a Nazarene Jew, and he believes in Yeshua and the apostles. I don’t agree with everything he says, as I don’t think Christianity is a separate religion, but I do agree that the Torah is not abolished. I really started questioning it because I tried (and failed!) to memorize the Sermon on the Mount. This Trimm guy just clarified my position for me. Understanding Galatians sealed the deal. Enough background, let’s get to the text!!
            Start reading where it lands ya, in the comments: click

            I do not think it’s wrong to Judaize. Peter was just being hypocritical, is all. I’m using the standard definition of hypocritical here. I mean saying one thing with his words doing another with his actions, not like the word used in Mt. 7:5. Paul just said it in a way I found to be confusing.

            As to the rest of the passages, we already discussed one, and you denied my interpretation, and I denied your correction. I think he was talking about Pagan festivals in 4:8. This makes a lot of sense in context, which was your complaint against my interpretation.

            I think what you’re missing here is the key to the interpretation. Once you have the key, it will “open up” your understanding. It’s found the verse before the one we disagree on. 4:7: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” The principal is restated in v. 22 with a different analogy. Do we have to keep the Law to be saved? No way! If we think we do, it works against our faith, perhaps even negates it. (Though I fear judging people in this way.) Does that mean that the law is no longer applicable? No way! You said yourself that there are several verses that define sin as breaking God’s law. I personally like Ro. 7:7. I don’t have to keep any of God’s law, because I’m not a slave. I’m His son! But because I’m his son, I want to please him. I’ll keep whatever I think might make Him happy. If you think God is happy with you not keeping the dietary laws, by all means, keep breaking them. Anything done without faith is sin. (Ro. 14:23) Of course, this completely changes your interpretation of Zech. 14 and Zeph 3. Keep what you want. We both know it isn’t what will save us. It’s the inclination of our hearts that counts (Mark 7 again, esp. v. 15), and God can correct the errors of our faith with time and communion with Him, provided we want more than anything to please Him. That’s what I want more than anything. May God be pleased with my life!!

            • Dr. Lisle says:

              Hi Brian,

              > It appears your entire argument hinges on your interpretation of Galatians.

              Scripture provides its own interpretation. People may “interpret” texts of Scripture different ways, but there is only one MEANING. The meaning is discovered by applying proper (i.e. biblical) methods of hermeneutics: interpreting Scripture with Scripture, understanding the context, applying logic, and so forth.

              > I just read the whole book again, because I found that those passages you cited were hard to interpret out of context. The most difficult passage in that book (for me) is found in 2:14.

              What part is confusing to you? Peter knew that he was not required to keep the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament since he had received Christ – the substance to which those shadows pointed. So he ate with the Gentiles (verse 12). Gill puts it this way, “[Peter] knew that the distinction of meats was now laid aside, and that nothing was common and unclean of itself, and that every creature of God was good, and not to be refused if received with thankfulness; wherefore he made use of his Christian liberty, and ate such food dressed in such manner as the Gentiles did, without any regard to the laws and ceremonies of the Jews; and in this he did well, for hereby he declared his sense of things, that the ceremonial law was abolished, that not only the Gentiles are not obliged to it, but even the Jews were freed from it, and that the observance of it was far from being necessary to salvation.”

              But then when around Jews who had not yet recognized the freedom they have in Christ, Peter observed the ceremonial laws, as if they were still in effect – as if the Christ (the substance to which those laws pointed) had not yet come. Paul rightly criticizes Peter for such hypocrisy. By his actions, Peter was imposing the ceremonial laws on the Gentile Christians, thereby obscuring the truth of the Gospel – that the substance to which the ceremonial shadows pointed has now come.

              > So I went back to the guy who shaped my opinion the most on this topic. He has his own translation of the scriptures, and he wouldn’t be found dead with the title of “Christian” – he’s a Nazarene Jew, and he believes in Yeshua and the apostles.

              May I suggest this: if a person is not willing to be called a Christian – a Christ follower – he may not be the best source of information on how to properly understand the Scriptures. The best source of information on how to interpret the Scriptures is the Scriptures! Paul (in Galatians and Colossians), and the author of Hebrews both tell us how to understand the Old Testament ceremonial laws.

              > I don’t agree with everything he says, as I don’t think Christianity is a separate religion, but I do agree that the Torah is not abolished.

              I’m not claiming that. But the Bible itself tells us that the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament were foreshadows of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews 10:1). They helped the Jews to look forward to their Redeemer. Now that the substance has come, we no longer need the shadows. This is the clear teaching of the New Testament (Hebrews 8:13, Colossians 2:16-17, Galatians 3:24-25). The Bible is so very clear that these ceremonial laws were symbolic in nature and imposed only until the time of reformation when Christ came (Hebrews 9:9-11).

              > I do not think it’s wrong to Judaize.

              The apostle Paul did. The book of Galatians is an extended argument for not going back to the Jewish ceremonial administration. The ceremonial law acted as a guardian and tutor for the Jews; they were like children and “slaves” to it (Galatians 3:23-26, 4:1-3). But with the coming of Christ, we are no longer under a tutor, we are not slaves but sons (Galatians 3:26, 4:7). So why on Earth would we want to go back to the Old Testament symbols which are now worthless since they no longer point forward to Christ? (Galatians 4:9,21). Paul commands us not to go back to that type of slavery (Galatians 5:1).

              Paul is so adamant that people not go back to the Old Testament ceremonial laws (such as circumcision) that he says of those who do that he wishes they would just castrate themselves! (Galatians 5:12 – yes that is what the verse means). The ceremonial laws had an important purpose in the Old Testament; they pointed forward to Christ. But now that Christ has come, they point forward to nothing, which is why Paul refers to them as “weak” and “worthless” (Galatians 4:9).

              > Peter was just being hypocritical, is all. I’m using the standard definition of hypocritical here. I mean saying one thing with his words doing another with his actions, not like the word used in Mt. 7:5. Paul just said it in a way I found to be confusing.

              Peter was indeed being hypocritical. He knew that he had freedom from the ceremonial laws, and demonstrated this by eating with the Gentiles. But then when the Jews were around, he shrank back.

              > I think he was talking about Pagan festivals in 4:8. This makes a lot of sense in context, which was your complaint against my interpretation.

              No Brian. There is no contextual support for “pagan festivals” in this passage. There is not even a hint of that anywhere in the entire book of Galatians, nor was that the problem in the Galatian church. The Galatian church was not comprised of pagans who had converted. It was comprised of Jews who had converted. It was their tendency to slip back into the Old Testament system that was the problem Paul is discussing. The context of Galatians 3:23 is the Old Testament Law – not paganism. Verse 25 indicates that the law was a “tutor” which pointed to Christ, thereby indicating the ceremonial law. Paul continues to talk about this law, how we were kept under it like children & slaves before Christ came (Galatians 3:24-29, 4:1-7). Why would he suddenly switch topics at verse 8 and 9 and talk about pagan activity out of the blue (which was not even the problem in that church), and then go back to talking about the law? That wouldn’t make any sense.

              In fact Galatians 4:9 precludes that possibility. Paul asks how is it that they “turn back” to such things. Turn back to what: paganism? No, the Galatians were converted Jews. Turning back to Judaism is the problem the Galatians were facing. Paul asks how they could desire to be “enslaved” all over again. Enslaved to what? Obviously this refers to the Old Testament ceremonies – the “elemental things”, which Paul has been discussing in the previous verses (Galatians 3:23-4:7). Perhaps the phrase “no gods” in verse 8 is what threw you? The ceremonial laws pointed forward to Christ, but they are not gods. Now that Christ has come, to attempt to serve Christ AND the ceremonies would be a form of idolatry.

              So it is not possible for the verse to mean anything other than what it clearly teaches: Paul is warning the converted Jews not to go back to the Jewish administration under the Old Testament.

              > 4:7: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”

              The Jews were “slaves” to the ceremonial laws – they were kept in custody until the object of their Faith came (Galatians 3:23, 4:1-3).

              > I don’t have to keep any of God’s law, because I’m not a slave. I’m His son!

              It’s not that I disagree with that sentence, but I think it can be worded better. We don’t need to keep God’s laws to be saved. Without adding that “to be saved” it sounds like God’s law is totally optional, as if we have no moral obligation to God. We are still morally obligated to keep all of God’s standing laws. Even a son is under his father’s authority, and is obligated to obey. But when he doesn’t, the father often shows mercy because of his love for his son. So it is with our heavenly Father. We should still obey Him. But when we don’t, He is merciful, and there is forgiveness.

              > But because I’m his son, I want to please him. I’ll keep whatever I think might make Him happy. If you think God is happy with you not keeping the dietary laws, by all means, keep breaking them.

              It is impossible to break a law that has been set aside. The national speed limit used to be 55 mph. Am I breaking that law when I drive 65 mph? No, because that law has been set aside; it is not binding on me today. We should certainly obey all of God’s standing laws. But if God Himself has set aside some laws, then we are not bound by them. Since Paul warns us so clearly in Galatians not to go back to the Old Testament symbols now that Christ is come, it would be sin – breaking God’s law – to do so. God’s moral laws have not been set aside. Therefore we obey them. The ceremonial laws were shadows pointing forward to Christ. We do obey the substance of those laws when we receive Christ as Savior. But God has told us in His Word that the shadows are now empty and that we should not return to them.

              By the way Brian, there is some disagreement among good Christian scholars as to which Old Testament laws fall into which category: ceremonial vs. moral. My point here is that the ceremonial laws in general have been set aside by God Himself now that they no longer point forward to the Redeemer. To continue to offer animal sacrifices today, for example, would be an insult to God because it would imply that Christ’s work on the cross was not enough.

              I hope this is helpful.

  2. Dr. Lisle says:

    Hi Brian,

    > I’m beginning to see that we have squeezed all the juice we can from this discussion. Why should you give me the time to think about my arguments the way I have given time to think about yours?

    I’m not sure why you would assume that. In any case, I did consider your claims very carefully, and I searched the Scriptures and found that they contradicted what you were claiming. I listed the references so that you could look them up yourself. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without first considering your claims. Unless you are able to find a flaw in my reasoning, I must conclude that the Scriptures do not support your view. Did you read the passages I cited? Did you consider the logical argument I made, and were you able to find a mistake in reasoning?

    > You’re a busy man, and the implications of my view are pretty staggering. Lifestyle changes are not easy to do. Most people don’t ever even bother with them.

    Ironically, this is exactly the issue that Paul is addressing in Galatians. The Jews were very used to a lifestyle of being under the guardian of the ceremonial laws. They were very reluctant to give this up even when they received Christ. The book of Galatians is Paul’s argument for not going back to the Old Testament system. His main point is that they no longer need the tutor of ceremonial laws now that the Object of their faith has come (Galatians 3:23-25). We have freedom in Christ from the Old Testament system – let’s not go back to slavery! (Galatians 5:1)

    > You start by saying that your interpretation is the scriptural interpretation, implying that mine is not.

    I didn’t “start by saying” that. I demonstrated it systematically by showing the relevant Scriptures which contradict the position you were advocating. If I made a mistake in logic, please point it out. Remember, there are infinite numbers of “interpretations” of the Scriptures; all but one are wrong. If we are going to understand the meaning of the text, we must be diligent students of the Word, appropriately applying the principles of exegesis.

    > I’ve spent years of my life thinking on this topic, and I’ve changed my life according to my conclusions.

    Less important than the amount of time you take to form a conclusion is the cogency of the reasoning that led you to it. There are atheists who have spent years of their life thinking about atheism and have changed their life to live by its implications. But they’re still wrong. They don’t have a good reason for their belief system.

    > Then I read the scriptures again and found no conflict with my new view in scripture.

    Except for all the verses I listed of course. 🙂 They strongly conflict with the idea that all the ceremonial laws were to be externally practiced after the coming of Christ. (Did you read them?) The ceremonial laws and earthly tabernacle were a mere symbol of what was to come (Hebrews 8:8-12). They were never intended to be permanent, but were imposed “until a time of reformation” (Hebrews 8:10).

    > Dismissing my view in less than a day could hardly be considered giving it thought.

    I took the time to look at your claims, and the verses you cited, and the logic you used, and I interacted with that. I addressed each one of your major claims. Did I not? I showed how you had taken certain Scriptures out of context (treating prophetic passages as literal, importing non-contextual concepts into passages “pagan festivals”), and had not dealt with the verses that so clearly teach the errors of the Judaizers. The ironic thing is that it seems you didn’t take the time to reflect on the verses I shared with you, or to consider the reasoning, or to offer any counter-argument at all. If there was an error in my reasoning, by all means, point this out to me. But it seems that you’ve just dismissed everything I wrote. This is your right of course. I just found it ironic that you would then accuse me of that, when I clearly did carefully and systematically analyze your claims. And again, it’s not so much the amount of time it takes to draw a conclusion, but rather how good the reasoning is that matters.

    > Again, why should I expect you to. I’m thankful for the thought you’ve given to my posts till now, and I shouldn’t demand more.

    Happy to help.

    > The only reason I brought up Gal. 2:14 was to say that the entire book was easy to interpret using the “key” I showed you, but I think that my point wasn’t clear. You say that the plain reading is that Peter and Paul had thrown off the bounds of the dietary laws.

    The plain reading of Galatians 2:14 is that Paul was rebuking Peter for his hypocrisy. Peter realized that he was no longer under the Old Testament ceremonial laws – including the dietary laws. Yet, when he was around other Jews, he acted as if the ceremonial laws still applied. There is nothing in this verse that would suggest that ceremonial laws were still binding. If it did, then Paul would be contradicting himself in criticizing the Jews for wanting to go back to the Old Testament system (Galatians 3:9).

    > You rejected the plain reading of Zeph 3 and Zech 14 for the same reason I rejected your interpretation.

    No – not the same reason. Zechariah is prophetic literature! Hebrew prophetic literature is never to be taken in a wooden-literal sense. Such literature makes heavy use of figures of speech and dramatic imagery. It would be totally inappropriate to read it like a newspaper because that was never the author’s intention. So I reject a hyper-literal interpretation of the passage because proper biblical consideration of the context requires this. On the other hand, you seem to be rejecting the clear teaching of Galatians, Hebrews, Colossians, and Romans – epistles that contain plain doctrinal teachings. One of the most important principles of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation) is to interpret the figurative/poetic/prophetic passages in light of the clear historic narrative and doctrinal teaching passages. Perhaps an example would be helpful. Suppose someone made the following argument:

    “Isaiah 55:12 teaches that when Christ comes, ‘the mountains and hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.’ Now, when Jesus came, did the mountains and hills literally shout for joy? Of course not. Did the trees grow literal hands, and start clapping them? No, they did not. Therefore, we must conclude that Jesus was not the promised Messiah. Sure, there are New Testament passages that seem to teach that He is. But I reject the clear teaching of all those; we must reinterpret them in light of Isaiah 55:12. For example, when John 20:31 refers to Jesus as the Christ, it must just mean symbolically. After all, we know from Isaiah 55:12 that when the real Messiah comes, the trees will literally grow hands and start clapping them, and the hills will literally shout for joy.”

    Now, would you be convinced by such a silly argument? I certainly hope not. But this argument is of the same type as the one you have provided. Take a prophetic passage, read the dramatic imagery as if it were literal, and then override the literal teaching in the rest of the Scriptures to take them figuratively. That’s not proper interpretation.

    Satan interprets the Scriptures in such an inappropriate way. In Matthew 4:5, Satan quotes poetic sections of Scripture out of context (Psalm 91:11-12) in an effort to tempt Jesus. Jesus thrice responds to Satan’s claims by properly interpreting the passages in light of the historic narratives (Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, 6:13). The point I am making is that poetic/figurative sections of Scripture are only properly understood in light of the clear historical or doctrinal sections. Interpreting the less clear in light of the more clear is one of the most important principles of hermeneutics. Many heresies have arisen by ignoring that principle. (I’m not saying that applying the ceremonial laws today is heretical – only that the same type of reasoning can lead to heresy).

    > It isn’t consistent with other scriptures.

    The view that ceremonial laws are binding in the New Testament is certainly not consistent with the Scriptures. But there is no Scripture inconsistent with the fact that God has set aside the outward shadow form of the ceremonial law, now that we have Christ. What do you think the ceremonial laws were teaching? They were pointing forward to salvation in Christ! If we receive Christ as Savior, then we are obeying the meaning of all Old Testament Ceremonial laws.

    > I’d give you an example or two if I thought you’d give it the time required to think it through.

    You are very welcome to do so.

    > On the use of “Christian”, I already said that it’s one of my biggest problems with the guy. One faulty position doesn’t negate his entire life’s work.

    That’s true. But when it’s that foundational, it casts serious doubt on his other positions. (If a person rejected salvation in Christ, would you have a lot of confidence in his interpretation of other Scriptures?) Likewise, when a person refuses to be called by the name of Christ, we may want to rethink things a bit. I’m not opposed that you are looking to others to help understand the Scriptures; but I’m concerned you are following someone who may not understand them himself – particularly if he thinks that the Old Testament administration applies today.

    > If I thought you had the time, I might answer the claim of clarity in the cessation of ceremonial laws.

    In light of what the Bible teaches in Galatians and Hebrews, I think you will find the continuation position very difficult to support. But you are certainly welcome to make an argument from the Scriptures.

    > Judaize: Paul circumcised Timothy. (http://bible.cc/acts/16-3.htm)

    Was this because Paul believed that the Old Testament laws were still binding on New Testament believers (which would be contrary to everything he wrote in Galatians)? Or was it because he knew that the unbelieving Jews would not allow an uncircumcised person to teach in the synagogue? Hint: you don’t have to guess, the Bible actually gives the answer in the very verse you cited.

    > I know you have an answer (and I bet I know what it is), and I have an answer to your answer, and we can discuss this forever.

    My answer comes from the Bible. The Bible specifically says why Paul circumcised Timothy; it says he did so “because…” and then it gives the reason. The reason is not “because Paul believed that the ceremonial laws still apply, having changed his mind on the topic since he wrote the book of Galatians.” Scripture is self-interpreting. When it tells us why something occurs, we need to be teachable and accept that.

    > You once said that there’s always a rescuing device.

    That’s certainly true. But this applies mainly to people who have competing worldviews and hold to them tenaciously. If your worldview is “The ceremonial laws still apply. I’ve invested too much in this position and it’s what I want to believe. So whatever argument is presented from Scripture, I’m going to try to find a way out” then yes, there will always be a rescuing device. But if your worldview is “the Bible is true, and here is how I see things at the moment. But if I find Scriptures that are contrary to this position, then I will change my position. I want to be faithful to Scripture”, then there is hope that the debate will be resolved since it will show that we have basically the same worldview.

    > If someone wants to give the issue some superficial thought, our discussion will probably solidify whatever position they choose, but we don’t have the kind of time required to present them a logical path to do it. There are too many misconceptions, too many things not presented to come to a logical choice.

    Honestly, it’s not that difficult because the Scriptures are so clear on this topic. This was a big issue in the early church. And it is what motivated Paul to write the book of Galatians. Galatians was likely the very first book of the New Testament to be written. And it deals with this issue masterfully – if you’ll take it for what it says. Hebrews also hits this topic quite well.

    > I know it’s not possible that you gave it that kind of thought, because I thought for years on the topic before I made my choice.

    If someone said, “I’ve spent 10 years studying the nuances of math. And after all that time and having carefully considered the matter, I’ve concluded that 2+2=7” his position would still be absurd. The fact that he has taken a very long time to come to the conclusion does not make his reasoning any more cogent. His position is wrong because it violates a law of mathematics. We could investigate his chain of reasoning to see where he went wrong; but there is no doubt that he made a mistake. Likewise, when someone spends a very long time coming to a theological position, if that position contradicts the Scriptures then the position is simply wrong – regardless of how long it took the person to come to it.

    > Unless you’ve been exposed to this idea before,

    I have. 🙂

    > you’ve only given it a day (or less). And when it’s so easy to dismiss everything I’ve said, how likely would it be that you would spend time on an issue you found to be so obviously wrong?

    It’s not the amount of time, it’s the lack of cogency in your case. If you had a good, logical argument from the Scriptures, I would accept it. But you haven’t followed proper hermeneutical principles. One of the reasons I was able to respond so quickly is because you were asking about a section of Scripture that I have studied very carefully and know pretty well.

    > I just want to make clear that I’m not blaming you for this. I’m not at all being sarcastic.

    I know. You’ve been very cordial and respectful. And my replies are intended to be that way as well.

    > My regret is genuine. I am frustrated that there are so many things in my mind to answer what you said, but I know that there isn’t time enough to write them out,

    You could pick the top one or two and deal with those if you like.

    > and I see that you wouldn’t put your time into considering it if I did.

    I put quite a bit of time into this actually. It took time for me to examine the position being advocated, and to look up the Scriptures, interpret them in context, and then write an explanation of why the position you advocate is not compatible with the Bible. Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I didn’t carefully consider what you wrote. I did a point-by-point response to each one of your major claims. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like you considered any of the arguments or Scriptures that I listed – at least you didn’t respond to any of them.

    > I do not care to win the debate. I don’t want to be right in my past. I want to be right in my future.

    With all respect, to do this, you must learn to (1) interpret the Scriptures rightly by proper exegesis, (2) adjust your theology to line up with what the Bible teaches. Unless you can find a flaw in my reasoning in my last letter or this one, I think I’ve demonstrated that you are not currently doing these things.

    > I wish you had the time to give to this, and you could answer my questions,

    I can’t promise to answer all of your questions. But I will try, particularly if you keep them relatively short.

    > I’ll leave you with this. Polycarp observed Passover with John and the other Apostles.

    From what I can tell, Polycarp celebrated the Christian Passover – i.e. communion. Remember the claim at issue: All God’s standing laws apply unless and until He sets them aside; He has done this with the ceremonial laws in general. There is good New Testament support for this, and you’ve already seen the verses. But for Passover, rather than setting it aside completely, Jesus redefined it instead. The bread and cup now represent his body and blood respectively (Matthew 26:26-28) – the crucifixion. It would serve as a reminder of His atonement, and help us to look forward to His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26). We don’t celebrate the Passover in the same way it was done under Old Testament Law. That administration is gone. But there is a “Christian Passover” which we follow under the New Testament administration. God is allowed to change His law, and He did this when He instituted the New Covenant (Heb 7:12).

    Brian, the whole point of the Old Testament ceremonial laws was to provide an outward physical symbol of the coming Christ. They were the shadow, but Christ is the substance (Colossians 2:16-17).

    > We shouldn’t let this issue divide us.

    Agreed. God bless.

  3. Brian Forbes says:

    My assumption that you don’t have time enough for me seems to be incorrect. *I* almost don’t have time enough for it, and I feel like I have plenty of time for these sorts of discussions. I am humbled that you have given me this much time. I’m not sure I deserve it.

    I will take this response a lot more slowly than the last several. As I mentioned, I have so many things floating around in my head, and it would take a lot of time to get them onto the computer.

    I will write a quick response to one question you asked, though. You asked if I had read the scriptures you presented. Yes. I did. I read them in context, and I considered them mostly using my filters rather than yours, because I’m testing my view more than yours. I did come out of (roughly) your perspective not too long ago, so I have considered most of what you said from that perspective already. The major reason I didn’t answer them is because they seemed like dead ends to me. I did take one verse as a sample of what might happen on the others, though, and we still disagree on the interpretation. I’m not going to say that it’s because you’re not being logical, because you have said that to me, and I found it to be rude, and I will do to you what I would have you do to me. I won’t hold it against you, either.

    It is at this point in most of my discussions where I would consider if someone is receptive or in opposition to my message. I would consider if I was casting my pearls to pigs. I do not consider you a pig, so I would like to continue this in the coming days. You may not agree with me, in the end, but I think you can learn something from the interaction. I know I will. I already have.

    You don’t have to respond to this particular message, but you can if you need to.

    • Brian Forbes says:

      Man! I thought about it over and over, but then I forgot to put it into my longer response. I just remembered it, and I think it’s important.

      Abolished vs. Set Aside – is this a distinction without a difference? Are they coming back?

      • Brian Forbes says:

        I can hope that you’re working on responding to what I wrote. In the mean time, I thought I’d share a lighter sermon. It’s the best I’ve ever heard on the topic. The point he makes in this speech is far more important than the one I made in my response.


        • Brian Forbes says:

          I am still waiting for a response to the book length post that hasn’t been “moderated” yet. If someone was just coming to this thread now, they’d think I gave up after your last response.

          I haven’t stopped studying and thinking about this topic either. I read Romans again today. I read Galatians too. I found an article that makes my point about 4:10 even clearer than I did.

          I am convinced that the book of Galatians wasn’t written to Jews specifically, and that passage doesn’t condemn the keeping of God’s festivals.

          I expect you’re just taking a break from your blog for a little while. May God give you rest in your absence. I look forward to more discussion. Even if our next interaction is not on this topic, I wonder what you think about some other things I’ve discovered. Then again, I know you’re a busy man. Keep following God’s calling for you – not mine.

          • Dr. Lisle says:

            Hello Brian. I’ve responded to your latest post, and I posted it in two sections at the bottom of this page to make it easier to read. I hope this is helpful to you.

            God bless.

  4. Micah says:

    Dr. Lisle,

    Sorry, i know you are most likely a very busy person, but I do have a question that is relevant to the topic of Gods Laws.

    I read through your articles, they were very good and i agree that it is the Ceremonial laws that are no longer binding on us.

    My question is about the punishment for certain OT laws like those found in
    Leviticus 20. I know you said we are under obligation to KEEP Gods laws, which i agree with. But what about the PUNISHMENTS for breaking those laws? Should we still keep all of them?

    As an example: in our society, adultery is fairly common occurrence. Here in the USA its not a punishable crime, but according to Leviticus 20:10 it should be. Punishable by death even.

    So my question can be restated as: Should we, as a society and as Christians, be obligated to keep these punishments for breaking Gods Law. If we are obligated to keep the laws, then it seems reasonable to assume that we are just as equally obligated keep the punishments for breaking said laws.

    I would really love to hear your opinion on the matter. You are definitely much more versed in this area than I am so i would really appreciate your input.


  5. Dr. Lisle says:

    Hi Brian,

    > Abolished vs. Set Aside – is this a distinction without a difference?

    There is a difference. To abolish is to do away with something. The ceremonial laws are not “abolished” because they continue to teach about salvation in the “coming” Messiah. However, they are set aside because we are no longer to follow their shadow form now that the substance has come. The Old Testament administration is over. We are in the New Testament. But the Old Testament is still a valuable teaching tool and the moral laws found within it are still in effect. The Old Testament rituals (such as animal sacrifice) are not to be followed today, because it would mean that we are still expecting the Messiah to come and offer Himself as the ultimate sacrifice.

    As a specific example, the dietary laws of the Old Testament which distinguished between “clean” and “unclean” were symbolic of the separation between God’s people and unbelievers, typified by Jews and Gentiles (Leviticus 20:23-26, Leviticus 10:10). But in the New Testament, God has set aside the Jew/Gentile distinction (Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). As such, it is no longer appropriate to distinguish between clean and unclean animals, because we are not to call “unclean” what God has made clean. This is the lesson that God teaches Peter in Acts 10:10-16. The administration of the dietary laws is therefore set aside. But the law is not abolished because the principle still applies. Namely, God’s people are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). But the symbolic outward practice of separating clean from unclean animals has been set aside by God.

    > Are they coming back?

    It’s a perfectly fair question Brian. But I’m not going to get into eschatological issues on this blog at this time. Sorry. I can say that according to Scripture, the Old Testament ceremonial laws are not binding on believers today.

    > In addition to what I said in my earlier response, I’m really glad you have chosen to give me more time.

    Happy to help. 

    > Maybe we can get through a few major points and leave the details for personal study.


    >> “Unless you can find a flaw in my reasoning in my last letter or this one, I think I’ve demonstrated that you are not currently doing these things.”
    > – I found lots of errors in reasoning. Maybe they are mine, and maybe they are yours, but I didn’t bother to present them in the last message because you didn’t seem to be listening. I was a little offended that you kept coming back to claiming that my arguments were lacking in cogency and proper biblical exegesis. Of course I want to be consistent with the scriptures, and I try my darndest to make sure my interpretations are. You will conclude what you conclude, but you don’t have to insult me in this way. I will try to refrain from doing that to you.

    You are very welcome to point out any errors you detect in my reasoning; indeed I request that you do so, and make a careful case as to why. That’s the point of dialogues like this. It shouldn’t just be “Here’s my opinion.” Rather, we each ought to make a case for why we understand the Scriptures as we do, and then examine such reasons to see if they stand up to rational scrutiny. When they don’t we are supposed to point it out, so that we can all grow in the Word. So please don’t be offended when I say that you have made a mistake in reasoning, or that you haven’t done proper exegesis. I’ve tried to show you specifically why this is the case when it occurs.

    Aside from Jesus, we all make mistakes in reasoning and exegesis from time to time. And God gives us other believers as friends so that we can help each other, and that includes gentle correction (Proverbs 27:6). I’ve been corrected too, and I don’t take it as an insult. Rather, I appreciate when a brother in Christ helps me to better understand the Word. I had thought (based on your earlier comments) that you are also this way, and teachable. And I’m still hoping that I’m right about that.

    > I would also like to say that, until my emotional outburst of two posts ago (emotions are awesome!), I’ve seen this discussion going as it goes when I try to convince a materialist of miracles. We can discuss it forever, and they will never see my point. They could see the miracle and not see it as a miracle. The way that scabs heal is miraculous. In our discussion, the issue may not be a matter of evidence. I’m pressing through with prayer, hoping that there will be more to this, in the end, than a waste of time and energy. I can’t open your eyes to see, and you can’t open mine either. God can. I don’t always know what God is doing, but I hope he works through this in us.

    It’s a good analogy. It is the underlying presuppositions that control our understanding of evidence, even how we understand the Scriptures. In order for presuppositional debates to be resolved, the underlying presuppositions must be dealt with and analyzed for logical cohesiveness. In this case, the presuppositional commitments deal with how the text of Scripture should be interpreted. This is what I’ve been attempting to get at, and I hope to make it clearer in this post. My approach is that interpretation X must be true, because the interpretation not-X leads to a contradiction.

    > As I mentioned already and you clearly noticed, before now, I have skipped a lot of what you said in order to keep to the major themes and avoid rabbit trails.

    That’s a good approach, and I will do this as well.

    > Let me also give you a rough sketch statement of faith on this issue. That way, when you’re putting on my perspective to evaluate these scriptures, you know exactly what my position is. You have wasted some time in arguing against positions that I do not hold to.

    Okay. Good idea.

    > My statement of faith:
    All Christians, Jew and Gentile, are saved by God: his grace given to us, a gift. We get that gift in exchange for faith (or believing what he said to the point of action), esp. in the cross and resurrection of Christ. We don’t keep any of God’s Law as a part of this gift of Salvation, and the gift is evident in our receiving of the Holy Spirit. If we keep any part of the Law of God, it is not because we want God to give us something in exchange, nor do we keep them for fear of punishment if we don’t. We are not slaves. We keep God’s Law (or instructions), because we acknowledge that God knows a lot more than we do (it’s good advice), and because we love God! We are sons!! I also acknowledge that God changes his instruction upon the change of the situation (e.g. killing should be avoided, except when someone has killed or is intent on killing you or others; eat only plants before the flood, but eat meat after the flood; incest; if / then conditions all over scripture), but I also know that God doesn’t change. If it was true for God at one point, it will always be true unless something has changed. I will always ask: If something was true for the Jews, why is it not also true for Christians? I do not think gentiles are a part of the Abrahamic covenant, but like Ruth and Rahab, they can be. For example, not all nations inherit the land, only Israel. Likewise, not all people are obligated by the Mosaic covenant. Gentiles are a part of a new covenant. I do not think that Gentiles have to be circumcised (as a part of the Abrahamic promise), and there are parts of the Mosaic covenant that may or may not apply (e.g. wearing clothing of two kinds of material and other debatable topics). In the same way, Gentiles are not heirs to Abrahamic promises, but they have promises of their own. Exactly what of Moses does apply to Gentiles is not itemized anywhere in scripture, and Jesus taught his sermons from the Mosaic instructions, so we are left to infer what applies where individual items are not specified by the NT. In other words, some of it is a guess. We live by the Spirit of God. It is for this reason (among others) that we are not to judge others, because we don’t know all of what people in this new covenant are being told by God to do, and only God can make a perfect judgment against us. The calculation for sin and redemption is too complicated for any man to do. The best we can do is point things out and let God work in people’s hearts. There are those who believe they are written in the Lamb’s book of life who are not, and the major difference is seen in the works of service done to the least of God’s family. It is better to be safe than sorry, and the safe position is to, when in doubt, obey God in humility.

    Very helpful – thank you. It seems that you believe that Jews are today still required to obey the Old Testament ceremonial laws, but not Gentiles. Is that correct? Are Jews not also under the New Covenant in your view? Aside from those issues, a lot of that matches my understanding of the Scriptures as well. In fact, this seems much closer to (what I see as) the biblical position than some of what you had posted earlier – whether this is due to my previous misunderstanding, or growth on your part – either way it is encouraging progress. Let me respond with points of agreement and disagreement. I won’t give a detailed defense of each point yet – just a summary so you understand my position.

    Of course I already knew that you understand salvation by grace through faith. No problems there. And we all agree that obedience is not a prerequisite for salvation. There are no works that can save us; salvation is only by God’s grace received through faith which is His gift as well. Moreover, I agree that we obey God’s standing laws out of love and gratitude for His salvation, and also pragmatically because we know that it goes better for us and for others if we are obedient.

    I would also add another reason: we are morally obligated to obey God. I do not believe that we are free to sin. Christ did not free us FROM obedience to the law, but rather from slavery of sin TO obedience to the law. We now have the freedom to obey – something we couldn’t do before salvation. What I mean by this is that God is displeased when we break His standing commandments. He has NOT said, “I want you to do this, but if you want to disobey and do something else instead, that’s okay too” when it comes to His law. We should obey God’s law at all times; when we do not, it is sin and this is wrong. Sin does not break our union with God of course (we do not lose our salvation when we sin), but it can stunt our growth in Christ. It may be that you agree with this, but it wasn’t clear to me.

    Moreover, we should expect to be punished by God when we sin (God loves those whom He chastens – Hebrews 12:6), and such chastening is unpleasant (Hebrews 12:11). But when God chastens His children, it is always less than we deserve (which would be eternity in the Lake of Fire), and for our benefit. Although God deals with us as sons, not slaves, He is still in authority over us (Hebrews 12:9) and thus we are obligated to obey Him, even though Jesus has paid the full penalty for our sins, past, present, and future.

    Yes, God can change His laws to deal with changing circumstances – your example of a change in the dietary law at the time of Noah is spot on: plants only before the flood, plants and meat after the flood. Marriage of close relatives is initially permitted, but then forbidden later on for various reasons which I won’t go into here. Moreover, since God does not change, He will not change His laws on a whim (arbitrarily – without a good reason). If God does change a law, it will be because some circumstance has changed. I contend that the ceremonial laws pointed forward to the first coming of Christ; and His coming and dying on the cross in fulfillment of prophecy was the circumstance that ended the need for the outward symbolic rituals that gave the Jews hope to look forward to the Messiah.

    Moral laws continue to apply in the New Testament. They are rooted in God’s character which does not change; hence, the central root of any moral law cannot change. But, as with ceremonials laws, circumstances may change, and therefore God may adapt the specific application of a moral law, though its basis remains rooted in His eternal character.

    Regarding Gentiles vs. Jews: The Gentiles were never under the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. That’s certainly true. The ceremonial laws applied to God’s people, which were typified by Israel. Ruth and Rahab were Gentiles that had faith in God and were adopted into Israel. Essentially, they became Jews, and the ceremonial laws would indeed have applied to them as believers. Since the Old Testament ceremonial laws symbolized (among other things) the distinction between Jews and Gentiles in the Old Testament, they never have applied to Gentiles, and they still do not. This includes laws such as circumcision, Jewish dietary restrictions, and the restriction on weaving of two different types of material. These all symbolized the distinction between Jew and Gentile (e.g. Leviticus 20:23-26).

    In the New Testament, there is no longer a distinction in terms of God’s law between Jew and Gentile. Romans 10:12 states, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him.” See also Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11. Peter explains how he learned this lesson in Acts 10:28-35. God’s people are no longer (just) the nation of Israel. Rather the church is the people of God; of course the church includes many believing Jews. In the New Testament, God does not distinguish between Jew and Gentile; rather all are one in Christ (Romans 3:29-30, 4:12, Colossians 3:11). Both Jews and Gentiles are part of the New Covenant if they have received Christ as Savior and Lord.

    The Bible teaches that believing Gentiles have been “grafted in” to the “olive tree” of God’s people (Romans 11:17). God considers the Gentiles who trust in Christ to be true Jews (Romans 2:28-29). Conversely, those Jews who reject Christ are not considered to be truly a part of Israel (Romans 9:6). The promise to Abraham and to his descendants was not referring to his physical children, but to his children of the faith (Romans 4:13). Romans 9:7-8 clarifies that the descendants of Abraham who receive the promise are not his physical descendants, but his spiritual descendants. Verse 8 states, “That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.”

    So are believing Gentiles heirs to the promise given to Abraham? Yes! Galatians 3:29, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (See also Ephesians 3:6). Interestingly, the land of Canaan was but a down-payment, a small piece of what God intended to give His children; namely, the entire world (notice that Romans 4:13 indicates that Abraham and his descendants are heir to the world – not just Canaan.) See also Matthew 5:5.

    Both Jews and Gentiles are now in the New Covenant. The Old Covenant is obsolete (Hebrews 8:13) – (more on what this means later). There is no doubt that the New Covenant applies to Jews (as well as Gentiles) – the Bible teaches this clearly in Hebrews 8:8-10. The author of Hebrews refers to the regulations of the Old Covenant in the past tense (e.g. Hebrews 9:1) since he recognized that such regulations are not for today. The Old Covenant itself teaches that it would be replaced by a New Covenant (e.g. Jeremiah 31:31-33). There cannot be a New Covenant if the Old Covenant is still binding; God took away the first to give us the second (Hebrews 10:9).

    I agree that some of the Mosaic Law does not apply today to Gentiles, namely the ceremonial laws. And I would add that these same sections also do not apply to Jews (since there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile in the New Testament). I agree that much of the Mosaic Law does apply to Gentiles today (the moral laws) and the same sections apply to Jews as well. The Bible does not itemize which sections are which in terms of where they are found in Scripture. That is, moral laws and ceremonial laws are often found in the same list of commandments. However, where I would disagree with you, is that I would argue that it is indeed possible to learn from the Scriptures which laws are still in force today, and which have been set aside. God has not left us to “guess” about His commandments. God is not so cruel as to demand obedience from us, and then leave us to guess about what He wants (Deuteronomy 30:11-14, 1 John 5:3). I would add, however, that understanding which laws fall into which category is not always trivial; it requires careful study of the Word.

    In general, the Old Testament ceremonial laws – those that point forward to the first coming of Christ, or symbolize the separation between Jews and Gentiles – have been set aside. They acted like a tutor to teach Old Testament Jews about salvation in Christ, and sanctification (Galatians 3:23-25). Now that Christ has come, we are no longer under a tutor, and God no longer distinguishes between Jews and Gentiles in terms of His law or in terms of salvation.

    Regarding judging others, I believe the Scriptures teach that we are not to judge the person or the person’s motives (because we cannot, and this prerogative belongs to God alone – Romans 14:10, Hebrews 4:12), but we are to judge their actions (John 7:24). When we judge actions, we are not to judge self-righteously (Romans 2:1), but rather according to the standards put forth in God’s Word (John 7:24, 1 Corinthians 6:3, Matthew 7:1-5, 1 Corinthians 5:11-13).

    > What do we do, exactly? Remember that this is just my current position. There are probably things I’m leaving out. I think there are generally three tiers:
    1. Essentials
    a. faith
    b. milk truth
    c. spiritual disciplines (Prayer, scripture)
    d. love God, love people
    e. this one is tricky, because some may fall under 2, but living a wholesome life (not lying, feeding the poor, abortion, sexual purity, keep from being polluted by the world, etc.)
    2. A good idea – things God says to do, but they’re not tied directly to our salvation. Sacrifices aren’t always mandatory. You certainly won’t be reprimanded for obeying them.
    a. feasts
    b. food laws
    c. meat truth
    d. living tough scriptures (a man cannot have long hair, no tattoos for the dead, modesty, etc.)
    3. I don’t know for sure, but I think there’s grace for breaking these, partly because we currently can’t keep some of them and some don’t apply to us for whatever reason (I’m not a woman)
    a. touching “unclean” people / making them use another counter, gloves, and knife at Quiznos
    b. until the priesthood is restored, sacrifices
    c. unintended ignorance

    Okay. I’m going to challenge and encourage you to search the Scriptures on this issue: Does the Bible teach three levels of commandments (essentials, good ideas but no reprimand for disobeying, and those for which there is grace for breaking)? I suggest that it does not. In terms of salvation, we are not saved by obedience to any commandment – but by grace through faith. So there are no things that a Christian must do of necessity to remain saved. There are no commandments that are “directly” tied to our salvation, other than the command for unbelievers to repent. Breaking any other command will not result in loss of salvation. Those who are truly saved will want to obey God out of love, gratitude, and recognition of His authority, not in a post-hoc attempt to earn the eternal life that God has already freely given to them.

    My position is that the Bible teaches that God’s laws are not “suggestions.” Rather, ALL of God’s standing laws are to be obeyed – even the least of them (Matthew 5:19). When we break God’s laws, it is sin, pure and simple. When we sin, we expect that God will indeed reprimand us, because He loves us (Hebrews 12:6). We have a moral obligation to obey God precisely because He is God. Though He graciously forgives our sins, we should not “continue to sin that grace may abound!” (Romans 6:1-2, 15). The apostle Paul reminds us that we should consider ourselves “dead” to sin, and alive to Christ (Romans 6:11) and that we should not let sin reign in our bodies (Romans 6:12).

    Therefore, if the dietary laws did apply today, then it would be sinful to disregard them. We dare not say that it’s okay to disobey God in some matters. It is never “okay” to sin. Will God forgive us when we do? Of course. But that doesn’t make it right, which is Paul’s argument in Romans 6. Now I believe that the Bible explicitly teaches that the Old Testament dietary laws have been set aside by God Himself in the New Testament, as an indication that salvation has come to the Gentiles (e.g. Acts 10:15). And in previous posts, I’ve provided some of the verses that argue for this. But hypothetically, if God had not set aside the ceremonial laws, then we would be morally obligated to obey them still. It is not a light thing to set aside laws that God has not set aside, nor to impose laws that God does not impose.

    > You once said that good scholars can disagree on which category to place what, and I agree with that. God is our judge. I think it’s also interesting that most pastors will claim that the tithe is required for the believer, but keeping the Sabbath (among others) is not for many.

    The Sabbath day issue is tricky, and I’m not going to discuss it in detail at the present. By way of overview, many Christians point out that there is New Testament evidence that Sunday is to be observed as the Christian Sabbath, in honor of the resurrection of our Lord. I’m not aware of any Christians that observe all of the Old Testament Sabbath day laws; even Christians that assemble on Saturday seem to have no problem driving to church, though this was forbidden under Old Testament law since car engines involve kindling a flame (Exodus 35:3). But it’s a complex issue, so let’s stick with the easier ones for now.

    > So that’s it. As I find that this position is faulty, I’ll modify it. As it’s found fuzzy, I’ll clarify it. I’ve never written anything like this on this topic, so I’m confident that it will be changed. Changed like Einstein changed Newton’s gravity, mind.

    You’ll notice that I often list verses in parenthesis when I make a point. I always back up what I’m saying with Scripture. Please be sure to look those up when you come across them. The Word of God is very powerful and can correct our thinking in a lot of ways.

    > Before I get into the item by item responses, I wanted to recall the fact that I agree with you on so many things. You are probably closer to my perspective (at least from my perspective) than the majority of people I talk to about this. We’re working on some relatively minor issues here, though the impact on our lives can be noticeable. Many of the things you said were not substantiated with scripture. You didn’t need to, because I agreed with you already. Here is an example. “Does this indicate salvation by works? No! It indicates a correlation between works and salvation, but works are not the cause.” Because I didn’t address something doesn’t mean I didn’t understand it or didn’t have an answer. There could be any number of reasons why I didn’t respond, and it was mostly for the sake of time and brevity, and it might have been that I didn’t have a problem with what you said.

    > Major theme 1:
    Sometimes people don’t see the point. They miss it because it’s invisible to them. They can’t see it because they have trained their mind to miss it, or God has hardened their hearts. There may be things this is true about for me, and I pray that God opens my eyes to see. I believe there are things you can’t see, refuse to see, or haven’t shown me that you can see. A couple examples of this are that Jesus said that anyone who practices the least of the commands of Moses will be called great in the Kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5 – Seriously, read this 20 times today. Memorize it. This is the key to my entire argument. If I have to call attention to it again, I will know that you haven’t given my perspective an adequate amount of thought.)

    To be precise, Jesus wasn’t just referring to the commands of Moses (He doesn’t mention Moses specifically), but the “Law” – i.e. all of it. He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (in other words, the Scriptures), but to establish. The inclusion of the “Prophets” in verse 17 shows that Christ is referring to the Old Testament in its entirety, not just Moses or the Mosaic commands.

    I want to spend some discussing Matthew 5 since you claim that it is the key to your entire argument. I am very familiar with this passage, particularly verses 17-19, have studied it in the Greek, and had memorized it before I even knew you existed. It seems to refute some of what you say, which is why it surprised me a bit that you would try to use it for support. In fact, it was Matthew 5:17-19 that motived me to do the series on God’s Law. Christians are far too quick to set aside laws that God has NOT set aside. And this is sin.

    But – and here it the key – it should be obvious that Matthew 5:17-19 does not forbid God from setting aside some of His own laws. God is the law-giver and as such has the right to set aside or alter His laws for His people. And He has done so on some occasions – as you have rightly stated previously. It’s not clear to me why you think Matthew 5:19 supports your view that (some/all?) Old Testament Ceremonial (or Mosaic only?) laws still apply today (at least to Jews?). Perhaps further clarification of your view would be helpful.

    Since you haven’t provided me with a clear argument from Matthew 5:19 the conclusion of which is “Therefore, we should follow the dietary laws of the Old Testament”, I am left to guess what your reasoning on the matter is. I’ll try and guess what your argument is, and then we’ll follow the reasoning to see if it is self-consistent, okay?

    Perhaps your argument is, “Since Matthew 5:19 indicates that those who take away the least of God’s commandments, and teach others to do the same will be least in the Kingdom, but those who keep and teach the least of them shall be great, we should obey every command in the Bible – Old Testament and New, and this naturally includes the dietary laws.” Is that along the lines that you were thinking? Of course, such a view would be really hard to defend when we consider some of the commands given in Scripture. God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2). Should we obey that command? God commanded Abraham to offer his son as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:2). Should we also do this? Clearly not. We cannot take Matthew 5:19 to mean that we should follow every command in Scripture, because not every command in Scripture is for every person in Scripture. Some were given for certain people for certain times only.

    Perhaps, you take Matthew 5:19 to mean that all people ought to obey every command in the Bible that is given to groups of people (but not specific orders to individuals). Since the dietary laws were given to a group of people, then it would follow that we have to obey them today too. But does this view stand up to scrutiny? No. First of all, it contradicts your previous claim that circumcision is not required of the Gentiles. Circumcision was given to a group of people – the Jews. And so if all commandments given to groups of people are to be obeyed by all Christians today, then so must circumcision be followed by the Gentiles.

    Second, this view contradicts itself. There are three different dietary standards given in the Old Testament, and they are mutually exclusive. For example, the commandment to eat plants only (Genesis 1:29) was given to Adam and Eve – all of humanity at the time, and the commandment to eat every animal as well (Genesis 9:3) was also given to all humanity. The dietary restriction to eat only clean animals was given to a group of people (the Jews) in Leviticus 20:25. Should we obey all three of these commandments? Well, that is impossible. It is impossible to eat (1) plants only (2) plants and all living animals – clean and unclean, and (3) plants and clean animals but not unclean animals. So this view is self-refuting. It is impossible to keep all the commandments listed in Scripture because some of them contradict commandments given at a different time. Moreover, the commandment in Galatians 5:1 to not return to the “yoke of slavery” of the Old Testament ceremonial system cannot be simultaneously obeyed with the Old Testament ceremonial system. Obviously, if one law tells you to no longer follow another law, then it is impossible to obey both simultaneously.

    If you take Matthew 5:19 to mean that only Jews are required to obey every commandment in Scripture, then it is still a problem, because some laws from one time period conflict with the laws for another period (e.g. marriage of close relatives is required for earliest history, but forbidden later.) If you take it to mean that Jews alone are today to obey only the laws of Moses, then I’m going to ask “what is your Scriptural support for this?” Namely, why just Moses and not the other Old Testament laws? Moses is not mentioned specifically in Matthew 5, and it is clear that Jesus is referring to the entirety of the Old Testament Scriptures (“The Law and the Prophets”). It is the fallacy of special pleading to single out just the laws that you personally like without giving an objective reason.

    Moreover, it is not possible for Jews today to obey all the Mosaic laws since many of them had to take place in the temple, which no longer exists. Nor should they try, because Jesus cannot be our high priest under the Mosaic administration; the laws of Moses require that the high priest be a Levite, but Jesus was of the tribe of Judah. Thus, the view that Matthew 5:19 is somehow teaching that Jews must obey all Mosaic laws contradicts the clear New Testament teaching that Christ is our high priest (Hebrews 6:20, 8:1). Hebrews 7:12-14 indicates that the Mosaic laws dealing with the priesthood have been set aside by God Himself, so that Jesus can be our high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. This refutes the view that the Jews (or others) are required to follow all the Mosaic laws.

    Perhaps your argument is that Matthew 5:19 indicates that we must keep all the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. But that would be hard to defend since Matthew 5 does not address any of the ceremonial laws. In context, the topic that Jesus is teaching on is morality: how people should behave. This is what the beatitudes are all about. Moreover, the priesthood is part of the ceremonial system – it’s not a moral law. And yet we cannot be saved under the Levitical priesthood because Jesus was not of Levi. So, if we follow that ceremonial law, then we must reject Jesus as our high priest, which of course is an absurd result.

    Perhaps you take Matthew 5:19 to mean that we should obey all God’s standing laws – all the laws that still apply today to people generally. If so, then I agree with you. But then of course, that does not lead to the conclusion, “Therefore we must follow the dietary laws” unless you already knew that the dietary laws were supposed to still be standing today (which is very hard to defend in light of New Testament teaching on the matter). In any, case you will have to supply the missing premise in order for the argument to be sound as follows:

    (1) We should obey all the standing laws of God – even the least of them (Matthew 5:19)
    (2) The Mosaic dietary laws are standing laws in the New Testament (Scriptural support?)
    (3) Therefore, we should obey the Mosaic dietary laws.

    So, it’s premise 2 that you’ll have to support with Scripture – if this is in fact your argument. But premise 2 is contrary to the New Testament Scriptures that I’ve shown you previously.

    The way I read it, Matthew 5:17-19 is instructing us that we should obey all of God’s standing laws, even what we take to be the unimportant “least” ones. To be honest, Matthew 5:19 seems to refute your three-tier system of essentials, good-ideas, grace-for-breaking. Why? Because Matthew 5:17-19 would seem to indicate that each and every standing law of God should be obeyed – even the least of them. While disobeying the “lesser” commandments will not result in loss of salvation (nor will breaking the “greater” ones), Jesus does indicate that it will result in demotion in the Kingdom of God. This should motivate us strongly to obey all of God’s standing laws! And this prompts us to carefully study to see which laws apply today and to whom.

    In summary, it was my extended study of Matthew 5:17-19 that led to the God’s Law series. The text indicates that we should obey all of God’s standing laws. But it doesn’t imply that we should obey the laws that God Himself has set aside, and the Scriptures teach that He has set aside at least some previous laws. The view that Matthew 5:19 is teaching that all Old Testament Laws must be obeyed in the New Testament (at least by Jews) contradicts New Testament teaching that some laws have been set aside. The passage does not say that God cannot change His own law – only that Jesus’s purpose in coming was not to do away with the law. Matthew 5:19 indicates that WE may not take away from the least of God’s laws; it does not say that God cannot.

    > Another is that the apostles put away the leaven after Jesus ascended. See my quote on Polycarp. It doesn’t say Communion, but Passover.

    Again, Communion IS the New Testament Passover. Communion = Passover. Clear? Jesus assigned new meaning to the Passover symbols (Matthew 26:17-28, Mark 14:12-24, Luke 22:7-20). As God, He has the right to do that. “Communion” and the “Lord’s Supper” are simply terms which refer to the Passover as Jesus redefined it for the New Testament. Jesus said that the cup now represents His blood (Luke 22:20). He said that the bread now represents His body (Luke 22:19). The way it is administered is now different; we no longer sacrifice a lamb because Jesus IS our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). When we take communion/Passover, it is no longer merely commemorating the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, but it now represents Christ’s atonement. This is why Jesus said that we are to do this in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19). The Apostle Paul said that when we eat the bread and drink the cup of Passover/communion, we are showing the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

    When we take communion (the Lord’s Supper) today, we are practicing Passover in the way that Jesus and the Apostles have instructed us to in the New Testament administration. Paul refers to the New Testament practice of the Passover as “the Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20), and reminds Christians to observe it in the way that Jesus has instructed. So, when we at our church take communion, we are observing the New Testament Passover. Is this clear now? So, when you say that “it doesn’t say Communion, but Passover”, this is like saying, “It doesn’t say the ‘Holy Spirit’ but rather, the ‘Holy Ghost.’” Just as the Holy Spirit and Holy Ghost are exactly the same, so New Testament Passover and Communion are exactly the same. When the apostles observed Passover/communion in the New Testament, they would have done it in the way that Jesus redefined it. They would have taken the bread to represent His body, and the blood to represent the New Covenant in His blood.

    > Major theme 2:
    Summary of your position: All the feasts, all the commands pointed to Jesus (past tense). Since Jesus was the fulfillment of those laws, they do not apply to anyone anymore.
    The feast of Trumpets was a few days ago. That feast points to a future fulfillment. Some rituals are for commemoration and not only for prophecy. Two other feasts are just about to be fulfilled. If Christians kept them, they would be ready for what’s coming.

    Scriptural support? Such a view seems hard to reconcile with the New Testament. Paul, in Colossians 2:16-17, says that such festivals were a mere shadow of what was to come – namely Christ. Since we are not obligated to practice such feasts in the New Testament, no one is to act as our judge in such matters. Colossians 2:16-17, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day — things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” If such festivals were still binding on New Testament believers, then Paul’s statement makes no sense. Indeed, he would rightly condemn those who fail to observe such festivals.

    I cannot find any New Testament teaching that suggests that we should observe Old Testament feasts except for Passover, which is redefined in the New Testament as the Lord’s Supper. On the contrary, the New Testament seems to teach very strongly that such feasts pointed forward to Christ, and are not binding on New Testament believers. Those who are weak in the faith (according to the Scriptures) may feel obligated to practice such feasts, and we are not to judge them for it since their intention is to honor God. This is Paul’s teaching in Romans 14. Although the ceremonial laws are set aside, Paul suggests that we allow the weaker brother to continue to practice them until he has more light, and becomes convinced in his own mind that they have indeed been set aside with the coming of Christ:

    Romans 14:2-5, “One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him… One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”

    Paul here addresses those recent converts who feel that they must observe the Old Testament festivals/holy days. Notice that Paul teaches that both observing the day, and not observing the day are perfectly acceptable to God. This would not be the case if the law to keep such days were still in effect. Indeed, to break a standing law of God is to sin – and that is never acceptable. Therefore, we must conclude that such laws are set aside in the New Testament. Paul indicates that a Christian may observe them, though this indicates a weaker brother – one who has not yet fully understood the freedom we have in Christ from the yoke of the Old Testament administration.

    Did you know that these Old Testament feasts required animal sacrifice as part of the ceremony? (e.g. Leviticus 23:25). Moreover, animal sacrifice was to be performed in the temple (e.g. Deuteronomy 12:13-14, 16:5-7, 2 Chronicles 32:12). God Himself has made it impossible to keep such laws, by destroying the temple in A.D. 70. (Matthew 23:38, 24:1-2). In the New Testament, Jesus is the Temple (John 2:19-21). The temple/tabernacle was but an earthly shadow of the heavenly reality (Hebrews 9:8-9) and was never intended to be permanent, but imposed until a time of reformation (Hebrews 9:10). Thus, it should be clear that the activities which were to take place in the Temple must also be set aside. We no longer sacrifice animals on the altar. Jesus is our sacrifice. We have the reality; the Old Testament rituals were merely a symbol imposed until the Seed came (Galatians 3:19).

    > Major theme 3:
    Mt. 5 says (in all sorts of ways) that the Law and the prophets will not be abolished. Yet your interpretation of Galatians and Zech. 14 required that they be abolished. At very least, they are set aside, making them effectively abolished.

    They are not abolished since the principles continue to apply (i.e. salvation in Christ, and separation from ungodliness). But the New Testament teaches that the outward observance of ceremonial laws was symbolic to teach the Jews about salvation in Christ. The Bible explicitly teaches that they have been set aside (Hebrews 7:18-19). The Old Testament itself teaches that its covenant would be replaced with a new one (Jeremiah 31:31) – and the new one would not be like the old one (Jeremiah 31:32). So, if we believe the Old Testament, then we must believe that the Old Testament administration does NOT apply today, since the Old Testament teaches that it would be replaced when Christ comes. So, the view that the Old Testament administration still applies today leads to a contradiction. Thus, the Old Testament administration logically cannot apply today. The principles are still there, but the ceremonial laws pointed forward to Christ and only were to be outwardly applied until He came. Those laws applied until the Seed came (Galatians 3:19) until a time of reformation (Hebrews 9:10), until God took away the first covenant to give us the New Covenant (Hebrews 10:9).

    The ceremonial laws were only imposed as binding law until a time of reformation (Hebrews 9:10). They were a tutor to teach about Christ. But now that Christ has come, why should we remain under a tutor? (see Galatians 3:23-25). The ceremonial law was a mere shadow of the good things to come (Hebrews 10:1) – namely salvation in Christ. The Bible teaches that the Old Covenant was made obsolete when the New Covenant was established. (Hebrews 8:13). Indeed, that’s why we call it the “Old Covenant” (or Old Testament). It was never intended to be the final covenant, but merely pointed forward to the New Covenant.

    So hopefully you see why I find it very hard to believe that the Old Testament administration is still binding today. There is no doubt that its principles still apply, and its moral laws are as true as they ever were. But the Old Testament administration with its symbolic ceremonial rituals is over. It was never intended to be permanent (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:7-13).

    Also, it seems to me that your interpretation of Matthew 5 is inconsistent with your view stated elsewhere: you correctly stated above, “I also acknowledge that God changes his instruction upon the change of the situation (e.g. …eat only plants before the flood, but eat meat after the flood; incest; if / then conditions all over scripture).” But if you take Matthew 5 to mean that God’s Old Testament instructions are never to be changed, then we have a contradiction. God has changed His law when the circumstances were appropriate; thus Matthew 5:17-19 cannot be teaching that God never changes His law, which seems to be the way you were taking it.

    > Since I have read all the “forevers” and “all generations” in the Law of Moses, I cannot accept that they are abolished. I trust Jesus over Paul, so if Paul really is saying what you seem to be saying that he is, and I’m attempting to be a good Berean, I cannot accept Paul’s teaching. (Deut. 12:32) He’s a false teacher. But I don’t think he’s saying that at all, so we’re ok, provided we accept my interpretation of Paul.

    This isn’t a biblical hermeneutic for a number of reasons. First, the “I trust Jesus over Paul” argument isn’t cogent because the Bible itself teaches that all its Scriptures are God-breathed (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus said that we are to live by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4); that’s the entire Bible, not just those portions that were said specifically by Jesus. All of the affirmations of Scripture are equally authoritative and inerrant. So when Paul writes something in the Bible, it’s the same as if Jesus Himself wrote it because Paul (and all biblical authors) writes as he is moved by God (2 Peter 1:21). What Paul writes are commandments from God (1 Corinthians 14:37).

    Second, the apostles – including Paul – were authorized by Christ as His representatives on Earth (1 Timothy 1:1), including the task of penning the Scriptures (e.g. Revelation 1:19). What they write is what Jesus wills them to write. That’s the meaning of an “apostle” – it’s an authorized messenger. Paul was specifically commissioned directly by Jesus Himself (Acts 9:5-6, 15).

    Third, your application of the Deuteronomy passage isn’t contextual. It seems that you are arguing that if Paul is teaching that God has set aside former commandments, then Paul is a false teacher and you cite Deuteronomy 12:32 as the basis. But when we look at Deuteronomy 12:32, it does not prove your point. Deuteronomy 12:32 states, “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.” Clearly, this indicates that we may not add or subtract from God’s law. But notice what it does NOT say. The text does NOT say that nothing may ever be added or subtracted from God’s law. Rather it says, “YOU shall not.” God as the Law-giver has the right to add or subtract from His law as He sees fit. Now, does Paul subtract from or add to God’s law? Not at all! Rather, He points out that God has set aside some of His own laws, since they were for a specific time and purpose – to give the Jews a symbolic picture of the coming Messiah.

    We should therefore trust that Paul (writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) is right when He tells us that ceremonial laws of the Old Testament are not binding on New Testament believers (e.g. Galatians 5:11). Paul had a pretty good understanding of the Old Testament, and was writing under inspiration of God. The author of Hebrews (not Paul) confirms that GOD is the one who has set aside some of the former commandments (Hebrews 7:18). Hebrews tells us that when GOD established the New Covenant, HE has made the first one obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). Indeed, the Old Testament itself teaches that its administration will be replaced with a New Covenant – and this would be done by God Himself. (Jeremiah 31:31-33).

    I must point out that if the Bible indeed teaches that certain aspects of the law are set aside, and someone teaches that they are NOT set aside (and hence that we must do this that and the other which the Bible does not teach for the present), then that person is adding to God’s Word in violation of Deuteronomy 12:32. If the Bible teaches that circumcision is not required for God’s people today, and someone says, “No. You must be circumcised”, then that person has violated Deuteronomy 12:32 because he or she has added to God’s Word. Paul spoke out passionately using that very example (Galatians 5:2-12). If the Bible teaches that animal sacrifices are not required today, and someone says, “No. They are still required today – you must sacrifice animals”, then that person has violated Deuteronomy 12:32. Adding to God’s Word is sin just as subtracting from it is sin. Thus, we must search out to see which commands God Himself says must be obeyed today, and which ones were fulfilled in Christ.

    > Ex. 12:24 says that passover is forever. You changed the word to perpetual.

    Hehe. I didn’t “change” it to ‘perpetual’ – rather, that is the way it is translated in some versions, and the same Hebrew word is often translated as ‘perpetual.’ More on this below. By the way, the Passover is indeed forever, just not the Old Testament symbolic ritual (sacrificing a lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month). Christ is now our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), and He redefined Passover in the New Testament – as we saw above.

    > This is the word it uses: (http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/owlam.html) I don’t think it could be clearer that it wasn’t to cease.

    Okay. Your argument here hinges on two assumptions: (1) that the Hebrew word “olam” necessarily means “forever” and (2) that when God tells us to do something “forever” it means that He can never change or rescind that decree for any reason. If either of these assumptions is false, then your argument fails. I’m going to show you that in fact, both of these assumptions are false. Thus, Exodus 12:24 does not teach that the Passover feast (nor any other feast) must be celebrated (at least in the Old Testament way) in the New Testament. Here we go:

    The Hebrew word translated as “forever” or “perpetual” in Exodus 12:24 is “olam” which has the basic meaning of a “long duration.” This can sometimes mean “forever” (since forever is a very long time indeed!) but it can equally well refer to long finite periods of time. For example, it is the word used for the mighty men “of old” in Genesis 6:4. These men may have been very old indeed, but they were certainly not eternally (“forever”) old! In Deuteronomy 15:17 and Exodus 21:6, a servant who loved his master could take part in a ritual to be made a servant “for ever” (in King James). The Hebrew word here is “olam”, but we presume that this doesn’t really mean forever, but rather until death. Other examples where olam cannot mean “forever”: Deuteronomy 32:7, 33:15, Joshua 24:2, 1 Samuel 1:22, 27:8, Ecclesiastes 1:10, Malachi 3:4, Micah 7:14, etc.

    Even if we did assume for argument’s sake that olam must always mean “forever”, does this mean that such decrees are (1) unconditional, and (2) immutable? Consider Genesis 13:15, and Genesis 17:8 where God promises to give Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan olam (“forever”). Is this promise unconditional? No. In Leviticus 18:24-28, God tells the Israelites that if they practice the detestable sins of the pagans that God had cast out of the land, then God would cast them out too! He repeats this in Leviticus 20:22-24. God promised that the land would spew out the Israelites if they were disobedient. My point is that God’s promise was conditional.

    Second, there are “forever” statues that are explicitly set aside in the New Testament. Consider the laws of the priesthood. To be a priest, one had to be from the tribe of Levi, and the high priesthood was reserved only for Aaron and his descendants according to Exodus 28:43, which states that this was to be a statute “forever” (olam). Indeed Exodus 29:9 states that the priesthood belongs to Aaron and his sons as a perpetual (olam) statute. Now, if this means (as you’ve claimed above) that this also applies in the New Testament, then we’re in real trouble because Jesus is not a descendent of Aaron, and thus He cannot be our high priest! The author of Hebrews explains this in Hebrews 7:11-14. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the author of Hebrews explains that God made a change to the law when He changed the priesthood. This is not a problem for God, even though the old law was called “perpetual” or “forever” (olam) in the Old Testament.

    So, the biblical pattern would seem to be this: When God tells us to do something forever or perpetually, we are to do it unless and until God says otherwise. But God does have the right to say otherwise, and in some instances He has done so. If “olam” really meant that a law could never be changed or rescinded, then Jesus cannot be our high priest. But Jesus is our high priest; therefore, “olam” does not mean that a law can never be changed or rescinded.

    In summary, the perpetual or “forever” nature of Old Testament statutes does not mean that God cannot change, add to, or rescind them. It simply means that we are to obey them until God says otherwise. The New Testament explicitly teaches that the priesthood was changed with the coming of Christ; and the Levitical priesthood laws were changed (Hebrews 7:12) by God Himself even though they were called a “perpetual” (olam) statute in the Old Testament (e.g. Exodus 29:9).

    > Also, Deut. 13 says that false prophets would come and try to turn them to other gods, but they were to ignore them, fear God, obey his commandments, and listen to his voice.

    Yes – we are to obey God’s commandments, all the ones that He tells us to. It would be inappropriate to teach that we must obey commandments that God has set aside.

    > Then they put the guy to death. If Jesus really did try to change the commands of God, they were right to put him to death.

    No, that’s just wrong. Jesus is God, and therefore has the right to change His own laws if He wants to. That’s not the reason He came of course, which is the main point of Matthew 5:17. But as God, He does have the right. Jesus did change the way that Passover was implemented. In the Old Testament, the bread did not explicitly stand for the body of Christ, and the cup did not represent the New Covenant in His blood. Jesus changed that – and it was His right to do so. God has the right to modify or rescind His own laws. And praise God that God changed the priesthood laws with the coming of Christ – otherwise we could not be saved!

    It’s also worth pointing out that Jesus – in His earthly ministry – was actually under the Old Covenant. We tend to think of the Gospels as “New Covenant” since they are part of what we consider the New Testament, but the New Covenant wasn’t actually instituted until the cross. That’s when the Temple veil was torn, showing that God was done with the Old Testament administration (Matthew 27:51).

    > But Jesus didn’t do that. Of course, I agree with you that Jesus has the right to change God’s orders, because He is God!

    Yes – ah, this seems to contradict your previous point. Anyway, I agree with this one. Jesus as God can modify God’s commands. He did so with the Passover, in giving new meaning to the cup and bread.

    > But Jesus upheld the prophets. Others in the NT did too.

    I actually agree with that, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. Jesus did uphold the entire Old Testament laws (including the Mosaic administration) because He was still under that system until the cross. The New Testament authors also upheld the law and the prophets – but they did understand that some aspects of the law were changed with the cross. This is why Peter understands that dietary restrictions of the Old Testament no longer apply today (Acts 10:10-17), why Paul argues that circumcision is no longer in force (Galatians 5:1-12), why the author of Hebrews argues that the laws pertaining to the Levitical priesthood have all changed (Hebrews 7:11-18), and why Jesus changed the meaning and application of the Passover (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20). Indeed, it is why the New Covenant is called the “New Covenant.” If the Old Covenant were still binding, then there would be no “New Covenant.” The New Covenant has made the Old Covenant administration obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). The Old Covenant itself teaches that it would be replaced with a New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33).

    Brian, there is both continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. The Bible teaches both. The Moral laws of the Old Testament continue to apply today. The ceremonial laws have been largely set aside, having been fulfilled in Christ, but their principles still apply today because they were teaching about salvation in Christ which is for today. Does that explanation help?

    > It is just your interpretation of Galatians and Romans that makes this a problem. I don’t believe Paul says that anything was abolished, apart from the enmity. You have to read it properly.

    It would be best if you would provide a Scriptural reason or a logical argument as to why you think my interpretation of Galatians and Romans is wrong. I understand that you don’t agree. But I don’t understand why. The entire Bible (not just Paul) teaches that the Old Covenant administration would be replaced with a New Covenant at the time of Christ. This of necessity means that the symbolic ceremonial laws of the Old Testament which anticipated (in shadow form) the coming of Christ have been set aside (Hebrews 7:18, Colossians 2:17, Hebrews 8:5, 10:1). Scripture is pretty clear about that.

    > God has always been able to give us mercy for any reason at all. That’s OT ~and~ NT.

    Yes. In the Old Testament, the Savior had not yet come into the world. God therefore gave ceremonial laws to Old Testament believers to help them understand the Savior who would come and be the true sacrifice. The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament did not actually save anyone – they merely were a picture of the Messiah to come (Hebrews 10:1, Colossians 2:17). They were a “tutor” to teach the Old Testament believers that a Messiah would come. But now that the object of our faith has come, why would we still need a tutor? This is Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:24-25. The Old Testament separation between Jew and Gentile as a symbol of the separation between believers and unbelievers, is set aside in the New Testament, and there is no longer a distinction (Galatians 3:28-29, Romans 10:12, Colossians 3:11).

    continued below…

  6. Dr. Lisle says:

    Hi Brian,

    >>“They were never intended to be permanent, but were imposed ‘until a time of reformation’ (Hebrews 8:10).”
    > I think I’ll point you back to Mt. 5 again. I don’t see a problem here.

    There is no problem if we recognize that some Old Testament laws (the ceremonial laws) came with their own expiration date. They symbolized the coming Messiah’s atonement on the cross, and were imposed on the Jews “until a time of reformation” (Hebrews 8:10). That time of reformation is the New Testament. The clear teaching therefore is that those ceremonial laws are no longer binding on believers. Matthew 5:19 explains that we may not subtract from the least of God’s standing laws – but it does not say that God cannot set aside His own laws. He’s done it before as you correctly pointed out; after the flood, He set aside the dietary restriction on meat. So it is not clear to me why you think that Matthew 5 is relevant here. It cannot mean that God does not ever set aside or change His own laws, because we know from the rest of the Scriptures that He has done so on a number of occasions.

    > I am certain that the veil was torn in the temple upon the death of Jesus, and there are parts of the ceremonies that were fulfilled in the 1st coming. The first 4 feasts were fulfilled.

    This is a very, very important point, and so I’d like to spend some time on this one. When you say that the first four feasts were fulfilled, does this mean that you agree that they are no longer binding on New Testament believers? When you say that there are parts of the ceremonies that were fulfilled in the first coming, does this mean that you agree that those particular ceremonies do not bind New Testament believers? If so, then that means that aspects of the law did indeed change with the coming of Christ. If aspects of the law did indeed change with the coming of Christ, then Matthew 5 cannot be interpreted to mean that the law cannot change with the coming of Christ. So this reinforces what I wrote earlier: Matthew 5:19 teaches that we may not subtract from God’s law, but God can and has.

    Indeed, if we take Matthew 5:19 to mean that even God cannot change His own laws, or that Jesus’s coming did not change any laws, then the Scriptures will contradict themselves, because the New Testament teaches that some laws have been set aside. As one example, Hebrews tells us specifically that the laws requiring the priest to be from the tribe of Levi have been replaced with the coming of Jesus (Hebrews 7:12,5,14,18). Thus, if we are to interpret Scripture with Scripture, we cannot take Matthew 5 to mean that nothing at all in the law changed with the coming of Christ.

    > But it’s not done yet. There are still three feasts to go, and he hasn’t finished setting up his Kingdom. It hasn’t been abolished yet. Heaven and earth are still of the old set. The new will be complete upon the recreation of heaven and earth. 9:28 “he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

    This seems to be contingent on a particular view of eschatology, which I won’t go into at this time.

    > Major theme 4:
    >> “Scripture provides its own interpretation. People may ‘interpret’ texts of Scripture different ways, but there is only one MEANING. The meaning is discovered by applying proper (i.e. biblical) methods of hermeneutics: interpreting Scripture with Scripture, understanding the context, applying logic, and so forth.”
    > I don’t disagree with that in any way, but I disagree with your application of it. So far, whenever we’ve had a difference in opinion, you have indicated that my interpretation is faulty.

    I haven’t just “indicated it”, rather I’ve attempted to show that it is inconsistent with other verses or leads to a contradiction. Have you noticed that when I disagree with you, I don’t just say, “Here’s what I think the text really means”? Rather, I show verses that demonstrate it. I would encourage you to do the same. If you think I’m reading the Scriptures wrong, then explain why, and back it up with Scripture.

    > I haven’t seen any indication that you might even consider the possibility that your reading is wrong.

    I would be very happy to be corrected on the basis of logic and the Scriptures. But so far, you haven’t given me any actual logical reason to change my understanding of the text. You’ve stated your position, and how you read the Scriptures – thank you. But you haven’t provided a reason as to why the text should be read in the way that you see it. I’ve had to guess what your argument from Matthew 5 might be. You’ve just stated that you read it that way. But, from my perspective, your understanding of the text seems to directly contradict many verses in the Bible, as I have shown. For example:

    You say that there are three levels of laws (essentials, good-idea but not essential, grace for breaking). But the Bible indicates that ALL God’s standing laws are to be obeyed (Matthew 28:19-20, Romans 6:1-2,15, Matthew 5:19). The breaking of any of God’s standing laws is sin (1 John 3:4). There is grace for breaking any of God’s laws, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to obey all His laws which apply to us (Romans 6:15). Mathew 5:19 indicates that we should obey even the least of God’s standing laws.

    You seem to indicate that there is still a distinction between Jew and Gentile in terms of the law of God. But the Bible indicates that there is no such distinction in the New Testament (Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:28). All believers in Christ are considered Abraham’s descendants, and heirs to the promise (Galatians 3:29).

    You seem to indicate that ceremonial laws of the Old Testament ought to be kept in the New Testament. But I find that very hard to reconcile with Paul’s teaching that they were a tutor to lead us to Christ which have been set aside (Galatians 3:23-25), with circumcision given as a specific example (Galatians 5:2,6,11, Acts 21:21), and dietary laws as well (Romans 14:20). Therefore dietary restrictions in the New Testament will not bring you any closer to God (1 Corinthians 8:8).

    Now it may be that I’ve misunderstood your position, and I’m certainly open to the notion that I’ve misunderstood the Scriptures. But so far you haven’t given me a reason, or logical argument, or verse, to think that I’ve misunderstood the Scriptures. Whereas, I’ve at least attempted to make an argument for my position. Perhaps I haven’t done so adequately. But I have tried to show that if interpretation X were true, it would clash with Scripture Y, and would lead to result Z – a result that we both agree to be wrong. Thus, interpretation X is false. I’ve actually been proving my case through logic, rather than simply stating it. I hope you are looking up the Scriptures as I provide them. I would encourage you to carefully consider the arguments that have been put forward. If there is no mistake in them, then accept the conclusion. If there is a mistake, then point it out and explain carefully why you think it is a mistake please.

    > I also think your list is missing a vital aspect of interpretation, namely a person’s personal inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:13)

    Regarding the role of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit does help us to understand the Scriptures. Though, the particular passage you cited (John 16:13) would not be the one I would have used, since it is referring to the Apostles specifically. The Holy Spirit inspired them to write Scripture, including prophecy about future events (“and He will disclose to you what is to come.”) And that is not something the Holy Spirit does with us. 1 Corinthians 2:10-15 might be a better passage. In any case, I agree that the Holy Spirit must enable us to properly understand the Scriptures.

    But I didn’t bring this up because it is not relevant to our discussion. Why? It’s because you and I both have the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit would not tell you one thing, and then tell me something contrary to it. God does not contradict Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). The Spirit is instructing me to understand the Scriptures in exactly the same way as He is instructing you to understand the Scriptures. Therefore, whatever differences we have in understanding the Scriptures, they cannot be due to the Holy Spirit. They are failings in us, not God.

    > It’s not false because of my reading or your reading, but because it’s wrong. Let’s not assume that either one of us is right, because it’s a pride bias, and pride is dangerous indeed.

    You’ll notice that any time I disagree with you, I always provide a Scriptural reason. So, it’s not pride or biases, but rather the Scriptures that drive my thinking. Yes? If I have made a mistake in reasoning, please point it out specifically, and give a reason – based in Scripture – why you think it is an error. I’ll listen.

    > (Hebrews 8:13, Colossians 2:16-17, Galatians 3:24-25) – it’s a new covenant in the way that this is a new command: (John 13:34, 1 John 2:7) The key to understanding that is in worshiping in spirit and truth as sons, not slaves.

    The key to understanding Scripture, is Scripture. So we need to allow the Bible to instruct us on the differences between the Old and New covenants. A covenant is a contract or agreement between two parties. It may contain commands, but it is not the same thing as a command. It specifies the obligations of each party, and the rewards or punishments for keeping the conditions. The Old Testament had its stipulations, and the New Testament has its stipulations. Some of them are the same, but there are differences as well.

    You’ve stated what you see as the “key” difference in your last sentence. There is something to this, but there are problems here as well. First, people have always been obligated to worship God in spirit and in truth, both in the Old and New Testaments (Joshua 24:14, Psalm 2:11, 1 Samuel 12:24, Deuteronomy 6:13). So there’s no change there.

    Regarding slaves vs. sons. In both the Old and New Testaments, believers can be considered as children of God (Deuteronomy 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, 64:8, Proverbs 3:12, Psalm 103:13). So believers were already sons before Christ came in the flesh. And yet you are correct that there is a sense in which Old Testament believers were slaves. How can they be both sons and slaves? I’ll explain below. My point here is that believers have always had freedom in God, in both covenants, but there is greater freedom in the New Covenant. So it is a matter of degree.

    Although they too were children of God, there is a sense in which Old Testament believers were “slaves.” The Bible teaches that Old Testament believers were like children who were kept in custody under the ceremonial laws (Galatians 3:23). They did not have the enlightenment or freedom that Christ brought when He came in the incarnation. So, God gave them a “tutor”, the ceremonial laws, to teach them about salvation by faith in the coming Messiah (Galatians 3:24). But, now that the object of our faith has come, namely Jesus, we are no longer under that tutor (Galatians 3:25).

    Paul explains that before Jesus came, God’s people were like young children – and thus like slaves (Galatians 4:1). Why are young children like slaves? Because children are held under a guardian (the ceremonial laws) which restricts their freedom (Galatians 4:2). Likewise, a slave has greater restrictions and a more intense workload than a hired man (e.g. Leviticus 25:39). Old Testament believers had a far more rigorous set of ceremonial laws that they had to obey than we do today. They were like slaves but not because they are not God’s children. Rather, they were simply not “of age”, and so were put under a guardian – the ceremonial law. Furthermore, young children do not enjoy all the benefits of being an heir until they come of age. They must grow, and learn from their tutor, obeying him and being under his authority, like a slave. When they come of age, sons no longer are under a guardian/tutor, though they still must obey the King.

    God gave Old Testament believers physical, “elemental” things of this world to tutor them symbolically about the coming of the Lord. Animal sacrifices to teach about atonement (Exodus 30:10); dietary restrictions to teach about separation and purity (Leviticus 20:23-26). Believers were held in bondage to those laws before the coming of Christ (Galatians 4:3). But when the time came, God sent Jesus, who was born under the law (under the Mosaic administration with all its ceremonial laws), so that He might redeem (“purchase”) those who were under the ceremonial laws, receiving them as adopted sons (Galatians 5:4-5). Paul explains that we are no longer slaves (Galatians 4:7), and this means that we are no longer under the guardian of the ceremonial law, the “tutor” that served to lead us to Christ (Galatians 4:2, 3:23-25).

    Note that the Jews were not slaves TO God, (they were children of God), but were slaves to their tutor/guardian – the ceremonial laws. They are now free from that guardian, if they are believers in Christ. Paul laments that they would want to return to their slavery (Galatians 4:9) to the Old Testament ceremonial laws. Both in the Old Testament and New, believers are to obey God.

    There is no doubt from the context that the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament are what Paul is referring to when he says that we were “under guardians and managers” (Galatians 4:2). Let’s see why: First, he refers to the law which came 430 years after Abraham (Galatians 3:17). That’s the Mosaic administration of the ceremonial law; the moral law existed from the beginning, otherwise Adam could not have sinned. Second, Paul specifies that the law was a “tutor to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24) – which is what the ceremonial laws were all about. They taught about blood atonement; the moral laws did not. The moral laws taught only condemnation, but the ceremonial laws taught about salvation and forgiveness. Third, Paul teaches that we are now free from that law – that we are no longer under that tutor (Galatians 3:23-25). But we are still obligated to obey the moral laws of God (2 John 1:6, Acts 5:29). Note that in passages like 2 John 1:6, John speaks of God’s “commandments,” not God’s “suggestions.” God’s standing laws are not optional. It is only the ceremonial laws that have been set aside.

    Paul explains that being under the Old Covenant was like being a slave (Galatians 4:24-26). But we are free if we are in Christ (Galatians 4:31). Paul warns the Galatians not to go back to the Old Covenant, and be slaves again to it (Galatians 5:1). He uses circumcision as a specific example of something that they should not go back to now that Christ has come (Galatians 5:2). He explains that things like circumcision no longer have any meaning now that Christ has come (Galatians 5:6). Those who felt that they must continue to be circumcised in the New Covenant had fallen away from the doctrine of grace (Galatians 5:4).

    Apparently, there was someone in that congregation that had persuaded many others that they must continue to practice circumcision. Paul points out that this view did NOT come from God (Galatians 5:8), and laments that the Galatians have been swayed from the truth (Galatians 5:7). He laments that the error of this individual has spread throughout the congregation (Galatians 5:9), and declares that the offending individual will be judged (Galatians 5:10). Paul reminds his readers that he does not teach circumcision any more, and that he was being persecuted by the Jews for his biblical stand (Galatians 5:11). In the same verse he reminds them that if circumcision were still binding, then the stumbling-block of the cross would be abolished. Paul is using an enthymeme form of modus tollens to show that circumcision is not still binding. I.e., the stumbling block of the cross is not abolished; thus, circumcision is not binding.

    Given that the Bible teaches (1) a setting aside of former laws (Hebrews 7:18, 8:13, Galatians 3:24-25), and (2) a permanence of laws (Matthew 5:18), we have two logical options: (A) We allow that the Bible contradicts itself, or (B) we accept that there are two aspects of the law of God. Since the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, it will never contradict itself. Thus, we are left with option B: there are two aspects of the law of God – one which is permanent, and a second which can be changed.

    It seems to me that the moral laws of God have a permanent quality to them – based on the fact that they stem from God’s character, which is unchanging. Though, even these can be adjusted by God to accommodate changing circumstances. Conversely, the Old Testament ceremonial laws were given for a specific time to accomplish a specific purpose. They pointed forward to the New Covenant, and do not outwardly apply now that the New Covenant has arrived. This is why the Old Covenant is now considered “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13), and why it is always referred to in the past tense (e.g. Hebrews 9:1), and why Paul explains that we are not under the Old Covenant anymore (Galatians 4:24,31).

    Note that both slaves and sons are obligated to obey their master/father, for he is in authority over them. So we may not take our freedom from the Old Testament ceremonial laws as being a total freedom to break the laws of God that continue to apply in the New Testament – namely the moral laws. We are only free from the laws that God says are no longer binding on us. The extra obligations that were required of a slave (the Old Testament ceremonial laws) are not binding on New Testament believers, because we are no longer like slaves.

    >Major theme 5:
    You said, “Paul is warning the converted Jews not to go back to the Jewish administration under the Old Testament.”
    Acts 21:15 on, Paul meets with James and the elders. James confronts Paul (after Acts 15) He heard, “…that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. … We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them… that you [Paul] yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.” He then repeats what was for Gentiles in Acts 15. Then the mob accuses him of breaking the Law, which Luke informs us, he did not. So we take it back to what Acts 15 says. It only gives 4 commands, because, “For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” Why those four? I think it’s because those four touch on the Gentile (pagan) rituals. In other words, I think it’s a bare minimum, in order to keep the fellowship, but we expect people who love God to want to do more.

    Rather than speculate on why Paul did what he did, let us search the Scriptures to find out why. Paul explains such actions in 1 Corinthians 9:20. “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;” Paul knew that he was no longer bound by the ceremonial requirements of the law (Galatians 3:24-25), and He taught that to other Jews (Acts 21:21). But when he was witnessing to unconverted Jews, or when he was around new believers who had not yet learned about the freedom they have in Christ, then he would respect Old Testament rituals. This was not because they are in force today, but so that he might by all means win souls (1 Corinthians 9:22).

    Paul also elaborates that the dietary restrictions have been set aside; thus believers may eat anything that unbelievers eat (1 Corinthians 10:27). However, if someone else does not believe that he has the freedom to eat all things (such as meat sacrificed to idols), then we should not offend him by eating of it in front of him (1 Corinthians 10:28). It’s not that it is a sin – something that would break God’s law and weigh on our conscience, but rather because it would disturb his conscience (1 Corinthians 10:16). This again is the “weaker brother” principle.

    > Now comes the real test to see if you have the time to discuss this with me. I have a very short article about Paul. (click)

    I read it. The author suggests that because Paul observed some of the ceremonial laws in some circumstances after he became a Christian that this means that he was teaching that such things should be observed. But the Scriptures I cited above directly contradict this. Paul explained his reason for acting like someone who was under the Old Testament administration in 1 Corinthians 9:20, and in Romans 14:20. It wasn’t because he was under the law – he knew that he wasn’t (Galatians 4:21-22,31). It was so that he could win more people, and not unnecessarily cause a weaker brother to stumble, as I have explained above.

    > Major theme 6:
    As you think about these things, like the mistranslations of Mark 7 and other passages, and following logic to its conclusion, you begin to see that there is a lot of corruption from the view that the Law was abolished. There’s a lot of sin in the lives of those who believe it’s abolished. If there is a method that the devil uses (remembering how you called my interpretation of the scriptures as reminiscent of his), it is that he doesn’t want us to obey God. Just like he doesn’t want us to believe Genesis. Both are key foundational axioms, and in each case, one is more dangerous than the other.

    If God through Paul tells us not to be yoked again to the slavery of the Old Testament administration (Galatians 5:1), and if we respond by saying, “No. I AM going to follow the Old Testament administration”, then this is disobedience. Since the Old Testament ceremonial laws were a way of pointing forward to the Messiah, to insist that they must be kept today is symbolically to say, “The Messiah has not yet come – we expect Him in the future.” These laws were imposed until a time of reformation (Hebrews 9:1); thus to insist that we must keep them today is to say that the reformation in Christ has not yet come. The Old Testament itself spoke of it being replaced with a New Testament (Jeremiah 31:31-32). If the Old Testament administration still applies today, then it means the New Testament has not yet come, for the New Testament administration makes the Old covenant administration obsolete (Hebrews 8:13)

    It may sound very pious to say that I’m going to obey every command in the Bible – even the ones that don’t apply to me. But it isn’t biblical. There are some laws of God that are moral requirements for all people at all times – and therefore all people at all times should obey such laws. There are other commands that are for a group of people for a specific time. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2), but obviously, this isn’t a command that all Christians should obey, nor would it be “spiritual” to do so. The Israelites of the Old Testament were given animal sacrifices to teach them about blood atonement, and to symbolize the coming Messiah. They were held under the ceremonial laws like children/slaves under a guardian. But now that the object of our faith has come, God commands through Paul that we should not return to the yoke of slavery (Galatians 4:31-5:1).

    Animal sacrifice was not our gift to God; it was God’s gift to us – to the Old Testament believers specifically. Do you think that God gets some kind of sick enjoyment out of burning animals? Of course not. Hebrews 10:6,8 tell us that God doesn’t like burnt offerings at all – he takes no pleasure in them. Jesus came to do God’s will; Hebrews 10:9 explains that Jesus took away animal sacrifice in order to do the Father’s will. (Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 8:8, Paul explains that dietary laws also are not something we do “for God” – they don’t commend us to Him. Rather it was God’s gift to the Jews to teach them about sanctification.)

    The author of Hebrews explains that under the Old Testament administration, sacrifices had to be offered every year as a reminder of sin (Hebrews 10:1). He continues that this is because they did not actually accomplish atonement (the cleansing of the worshippers), otherwise, they would have ceased (Hebrews 10:2). But Jesus has made atonement; He made one sacrifice for all time (Hebrews 10:12). There is no longer a need for sacrifice because Jesus accomplished the sanctification of His saints (Hebrews 10:14). There is no longer any offering for sin (Hebrews 10:18). The sacrifices have ceased because Jesus accomplished what they could not.

    > Major theme 7:
    It’s safer to obey God by faith than to ignore his commands by faith.

    Should we obey the command God gave Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2)? Of course not – because it is not for us in this present time. Should we obey the ceremonial commands God gave the Old Testament Jews to follow as a sign of the coming Messiah? No – for the same reason; those were for a specific people-group for a specific time. We should obey the moral laws of God which apply at all times to all people. What about the command to not return to the yoke of slavery to the Old Testament ceremonial laws (Galatians 5:1)? Should we obey THAT command of God? Or should we ignore it, and continue to live in the Old Testament?

    > It may be necessary to come back to all these themes in a step by step through Galatians, Colossians, Hebrews, and Romans. Then we can go through 1 John and James step by step. I’ve done a summary of some (below), but those are big books. To get the full context, you really do need to read everything in the full context. It’s impossible to do in this setting, even if you do have the time. This really is a several month study, maybe even several years.

    I’ll try to answer questions on these – time permitting. I probably won’t have time to do another long response like this. But if you have short questions or comments, I will try to respond.

    > Minor point 1:
    The time I have spent on the topic is relevant, not because it shows that I am right, but because I know how long it takes to consider.

    That’s a fallacy of irrelevant thesis. Length of time to consider is not related to correctness. I worked for many years with brilliant astrophysicists at the University of Colorado, and many of them were able to comprehend things very quickly that would take other people years. From the nuances of quantum mechanics, to advanced mathematical concepts, some people take more time to understand than others. Consider an arithmetic problem. There were mathematicians in the past that would take months to solve a particular problem that today can be done in a fraction of a second on a computer. Should we trust the person’s answer above the computer’s answer, because he took more time to consider it? Clearly not. The cogency of an argument is utterly irrelevant to the time it took to formulate it.

    > You haven’t really considered it if you have only spent a couple hours on it. You said you considered it in the past, which rendered my point moot. I do question, however, just how much you considered it in the past and how much your then current view influenced your interpretations of scripture. I wonder if you actually took on my perspective, or if you just looked at it superficially.

    The time spent is not relevant, but what is highly relevant is what the Scriptures teach. I’ve shown a number of Scriptures that teach either directly or by logical deduction that the Old Testament moral laws do apply today, the ceremonial laws have been largely set aside in the New Testament (with circumcision and dietary restrictions as specific examples), and that there is no distinction in terms of the law between Jew and Gentile in the New Covenant. If you think I have made a mistake in reasoning (a logical fallacy), or if I have misunderstood a verse of Scripture, please point this out and demonstrate it. But don’t just say, “but I think such and such, and I’ve thought about it for a long time” – rather demonstrate logically why I’m wrong by showing how it contradicts a Scripture, or leads to some other contradiction, and so on.

    > Minor point 2:
    “No – not the same reason. Zechariah is prophetic literature!”
    I said that you reject Zeph. 3 / Zech. 14 for the same reason I rejected your interpretations of NT passages, and you claimed that the reason was not the same, but because it’s prophetic. I think you thought I missed your point, but I didn’t. I just rejected your point and asserted my opinion without properly connecting the dots for you. I apologize. When I read Psalm 22 or Isaiah 53, though there is room for poetic language, most of it is literal in its fulfillment.

    Not really, no. Psalm 22 is a Psalm of David, but it is applied to Christ, that’s hardly literal! The first verse, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Did God literally forsake David, or Christ? Not at all. Verse 3 – Is God literally, physically enthroned on the praises of Israel? That doesn’t even make sense literally. Verse 6 – Is David literally a “worm” and not a man? No, the Psalms and prophetic literature are full of non-literal literary imagery. It’s quite beautiful, and in most cases the meaning is easy to understand. We use figures of speech today too after all, and we normally understand the meaning. It’s a bit trickier in the Bible because the meaning of the ancient Hebrew figures of speech may not be immediately apparent to those in our modern culture.

    > I read it quite literally, and it makes sense to.

    It might seem reasonable to you, but it is definitely not what the author intended. If you take Psalm 22 literally, that David was literally a worm (verse 6), that might make sense to you. But it is an incorrect interpretation. By “incorrect interpretation” I mean that the interpretation does not match the meaning that the author intended to convey. The biblical authors did not intend the poetic and prophetic sections to be taken in a literal fashion – and I’ve already demonstrated this by showing that it leads to absurd conclusions. Thus, if you read such sections literally, your interpretation will not match the intention of the author.

    > True enough, trees don’t have hands, and I don’t believe that nations have horns. I believe prophesy is some fuzzy, some literal, and some run on sentences.

    What you haven’t provided is a consistent hermeneutic for interpreting prophecy. In other words, how do you tell which parts are literal, and which parts are non-literal? Is it just intuition or guesswork? Because that would not be at all an appropriate way to handle the Word of God. There are rules for biblical interpretation. May I suggest that we stick with the historic sections of Scripture, and the Epistles since these are primarily literal? If we cannot get the literal sections right, then for sure we won’t get the poetic/prophetic sections right.

    > It’s a little vague so that God can reveal the truth to some and hide it in plain sight from others.

    Not really, no. We must be careful not to deny the perspicuity of Scripture. God didn’t write the Bible to be unclear or confusing. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). He wrote it to be understood. That’s not to say He can’t increase His light with time – we know He does. Believers in the New Testament can have a greater appreciation and understanding of Old Testament prophecies than believers in the Old Testament; but BOTH groups can understand the basic meaning if they approach the Scriptures with the proper hermeneutic. My point here is that such a hermeneutic will not be literalistic for poetry/prophecy.

    > We can’t assume that a passage is not literal because it’s prophetic.

    Yes, we can. In fact, we must if we are to understand the meaning of the passage, rather than imposing our modern feelings and expectations. That’s not to say that every word in poetry or prophecy will be non-literal. But it’s not primarily literal. Prophecy tends to use dramatic imagery and figures of speech. If you ignore this, you won’t end up with the right interpretation. I’ve already demonstrated that by showing that trees don’t have hands, etc.

    We Americans tend to be far more literalistic than many other cultures, and it is easy to push our cultural expectations on the Bible. But the Jews were a high-context society, and their prophetic and poetic literature was not intended to be read like a modern newspaper. If you choose to disregard hermeneutical rules, and read prophecy or the Psalms like a newspaper, you will definitely not arrive at the correct interpretation.

    I do not have the time to give a complete lesson on how to interpret prophetic and poetic literature (though I have started writing a book on the topic of interpretation). But I will leave you with one simple, biblical principle: interpret poetic / prophetic passages in light of the clear narrative and doctrinal passages. I can prove this principle by showing that if it is ignored it will bring the Scriptures into contradiction.

    > Even if you do, you can’t make me do it, because I believe there’s error in that kind of interpretation.

    Well, you can interpret how you like, but your interpretation will not be true to the meaning of the passage if you continue with that attitude. I’ve already shown you that a literal approach to poetry leads to an incorrect interpretation, so I won’t repeat the argument here. A correct interpretation of the Bible is only achieved when the rules of hermeneutics are followed.

    Often the hyper-literalism imposed on poetic sections of Scripture by some Christians is from the most sincere motives. We see people distorting the Scriptures in all sorts of ways, taking texts in unnatural ways, reading Genesis as if it were poetry. Of course, Genesis is written in historical narrative, and should therefore be interpreted in a literal (with allowances for occasional figures of speech of course) fashion. Perhaps in an over-reaction to the liberal interpretations of the literal, historical writings of Scripture, well-meaning Christians insist that all Scripture must be taken literally. But the simple fact is that this was also not the intention of the writers. For the same reason that Genesis should not be interpreted as poetry, the Psalms and prophecy should not be interpreted as history. Each type of literature must be interpreted according to its own style, if we are to properly understand the meaning.

    > I couldn’t make sense of an allegorical, poetic Zech. 14 anyway.

    Unless you really know the Bible well, you’re going to have a very difficult time understanding the imagery and figures of speech used in Zechariah 14. It is full of symbolism that will be missed by those who don’t know the Jewish symbols. In verse 6 for example, you’d be surprised how many people don’t know what the luminaries symbolize in the Bible, and so they assume that this means some kind of literal darkness in the literal sky. But that’s totally contrary to the meaning.

    I noticed that you didn’t catch the meaning of the feast of tabernacles; you had assumed it was literal because you were approaching the section with the wrong hermeneutic (as if it were historical narrative). But I showed that such a hermeneutic will lead to absurd consequences (trees clapping hands) when applied to prophecy. In reality, “tabernacle” has a very, exceedingly rich symbolic significance in Scripture. It symbolized the presence of the Lord. In John 1:14a, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…”, the Greek word translated “dwelt” is actually from the word “tabernacle!” Literally, Jesus “tabernacled” among us. This may shed new light on John 2:19-21 when Jesus refers to His own body as the Temple. You see, the temple/tabernacle of the Old Testament was a mere copy/shadow of the true tabernacle (Hebrews 8:2), the heavenly reality, as Hebrews 8:5, 9:23-24, 9:8-9 clearly teaches.

    Again, I won’t have the time or space to give you a complete lesson on hermeneutics. I’ll just point out that it is good biblical interpretation to start with the historical sections of the Bible and the Epistles, since these are primarily literal, and then use such biblical doctrine to help you interpret the poetic/prophetic sections. If you do the reverse, you’ll end up with all sorts of errors.

    > Heresy is a harsh word, though I see you didn’t come right out and say it of my view, but you connected my interpretational method to Satan’s interpretational method. Not very nice, man.

    I never accused you of heresy, or even implied it. Heresy is reserved for a theological error that is so severe that the person committing it cannot truly be called a Christian. But it is true that poetic sections of Scripture should not be read in isolation, or over-literalized, or taken out of context to prove a point. Satan indeed does this (e.g. Matthew 4). But Jesus responds using the clear historic narrative (He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16,13, 10:20). My point: follow Christ’s example, and use the clear, literal sections of Scripture to help interpret the poetic/prophetic sections – not the reverse.

    > Minor point 3:
    “the Bible is true, and here is how I see things at the moment. But if I find Scriptures that are contrary to this position, then I will change my position. I want to be faithful to Scripture” – This is my position, but I don’t think it’s beyond either of us to use rescuing devices to protect our current views.

    Very good. Rescuing devices shouldn’t come into play here though, if indeed it is your desire (as mine) to simply extract the truth of what the Bible is teaching, rather than imposing a specific view on the Bible.

    > Minor point 4:
    This almost made it to the major point section, because this is important, but I also think you’ll agree with me, so it isn’t worth making it central to our discussion. James Trimm is no more authoritative to me than John Gill is to you. They have a lot of good ideas and some bad ideas. And in the case of John Gill, his bad ideas are central to his interpretation of scripture! I’m saying this tongue in cheek. You said that about Trimm. But it’s absolutely true that foundational interpretations spread to a lot of your theology, and I have trouble with Gill’s interpretation of Zech. 14, since he directly contradicts Jesus in saying that any part of the Law was abolished (not the smallest letter or least stroke of a pen will disappear – until heaven and earth disappear). We deal with this issue elsewhere.

    Only the Word itself is inerrant. But I have shown that Trimm is wrong about Paul’s teaching (see above). He doesn’t seem to know his Bible very well, apparently not understanding that Paul explicitly stated that circumcision is no longer required in Galatians 5, and specifically stated that all things are now lawful to eat (Romans 14:20,2). I supplied you with an alternative, Gill who was a superb Bible scholar – though of course we should test anyone’s teaching against the Bible. Most importantly, Gill’s analysis of the Scripture in our discussion was quite correct; it was not contrary to any Scripture, and did not commit any fallacies.

    No, Gill was exactly right in his comment about Zechariah 14:16. You misrepresented his statement. He didn’t say that the law was abolished, only the Jewish feasts. Did Jesus say that the feasts would never be abolished? No – only the law. And again, there is a distinction between something being abolished and set aside. If Jesus’s statement in Matthew 5:18 were to indicate that no changes in any law may take place until heaven and earth pass away, then Jesus cannot be our Savior and High Priest! This is because the Old Testament Law required the High Priest to be a descendent of Aaron – which Jesus wasn’t. God changed that law with the Priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-18).

    There is nothing wrong with looking to commentaries or other Christians to get help with interpreting the Scriptures. But when those people make frequent mistakes in reasoning, and draw conclusions that contradict other Scriptures, it may be time to consider going to a different source for help. I can recommend some good Bible scholars if you’re interested. Just ask.

    > Minor point 5:
    I wrote, “I believe everyone has some bias and is, therefore, not perfectly rational.” You responded, “A bias is not necessarily irrational or a hindrance to knowledge; a bias can be helpful if it is true.” I agree that a bias can be helpful and true. I don’t agree that it’s rational (BI – other discussion), as it’s not based in knowledge. But it’s ok to hold some positions without knowledge. Babies have almost no knowledge, but we can hardly imagine anything more innocent.

    Babies are irrational by nature. God expects us to become rational as we grow up. We are supposed to have good self-consistent reasons for what we believe. The view that we don’t always need a reason for what we believe is self-refuting. Perhaps the most important principle of biblical interpretation is that you should have a reason for your interpretation.

    > A couple of your unsubstantiated statements:
    “We no longer hold to the Old Testament shadow encapsulated in the dietary laws.”

    Scriptural support: Colossians 2:16-17, Hebrews 9:10, 10:1, Romans 14:2,14,20, 1 Timothy 4:3-4, 1 Corinthians 8:8-9, Acts 10:9-16.

    > “The Galatian church was not comprised of pagans who had converted. It was comprised of Jews who had converted.”

    1. They were practicing circumcision (Galatians 5:1-12). That is a Jewish custom. Most pagans did not practice circumcision. 2. Paul describes the Galatians as being under the tutor of the Law before Christ came (Galatians 3:23-24). We know this is the ceremonial law because it teaches atonement for sin, and because Paul speaks of it coming about 430 years after Abraham (Galatians 3:17) whereas the moral law has been around from the beginning. But the pagans were never under the ceremonial law – only the Jews were. 3. Paul includes himself as being in bondage with them (“we” in Galatians 4:3) under the symbolic ceremonial laws – the elemental things of the world. Paul was not pagan; he was a Jew. The church in Galatia may have had converted pagans too – don’t get me wrong. But these were not the problem. It was the Jews who wanted to keep the Old Testament administration with its ceremonial laws that Paul is writing to correct. That’s pretty much the point of the book. Pagans cannot go back to
    “slavery” under the Mosaic administration, because they were never under the Mosaic administration.

    > Colossians notes:
    Chapter 2 talks about not letting people judge us because of food or festival.

    Since the ceremonial dietary laws have been set aside, no one can rightly judge us for eating foods that were considered unclean under the Old Testament administration. If on the other hand, the dietary laws were still in force, then Paul’s comment would not make sense.

    > Because he says they were a shadow of things to come,

    And what good thing specifically? What is the substance that these ceremonial laws were a mere shadow of? Colossians 2:17 teaches that Christ is the substance to which these foreshadows pointed. Hebrews 10:1 applies this same terminology to the ceremonial laws, and applies it to the sacrifices specifically. They were a “shadow of the good things to come” – namely Christ. Hebrews applies the same terminology to the (physical) temple in Hebrews 8:5, and says that the rituals of the Old Testament ceremonial laws were a symbol (Hebrews 9:9), and that such ceremonial laws were imposed (past tense) until the time of reformation (Hebrews 9:10). That time is of course the New Testament era.

    > he is also saying here that they are prophetic, thus of God and good.

    They have served their purpose, and their purpose was good; they acted as a tutor and “guardian” to teach the Old Testament Jews about salvation in the coming Messiah (Galatians 3:24, 4:2). However, the Old Testament was never intended to be permanent, because it cannot achieve salvation (Hebrews 10:1-4, 7:18-19, 22, 8:7). The Old Covenant was not faultless (Hebrews 8:7), and was taken away (Hebrews 10:9) to establish a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6).

    > Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath, and it was made for man, and Paul talks a lot about food sacrificed to idols, so it makes sense that he’s talking about those sorts of issues.

    There are a number of issues in play. We’ve already seen that Paul is referring to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament in Colossians 2:17 since these were a shadow that pointed toward Christ. He specifically mentions food (e.g. dietary laws), festivals, and Sabbaths. Since these were set aside at Christ’s coming, no one can judge us for not following such things – as opposed to the moral laws of God which are still binding on us. Some Jews had added additional regulations to the biblical ones, and Paul rhetorically asks why we would submit to such decrees if we are in Christ (Colossians 2:20-21). The laws pertaining to clean/unclean animals (whether the true biblical ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, or unbiblical manmade traditions) are not binding on those in Christ, because the Jew/Gentile distinction is dissolved in the New Testament (Acts 10)

    > We can assume that Jesus’ Passover meal also instituted new traditions as part of Passover. We are not to condemn people for how they keep these things, nor are we to feel condemned for how we keep or do not keep them.

    Jesus told us how to keep the Passover/Lord’s supper in the New Testament, and we must do it as He has commanded. As to the other ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, no one should feel condemned for breaking them because they do not apply today. So you are correct, but only because such laws have been set aside. If they were still binding on New Testament believers (as moral laws are), then we should indeed feel guilty if we break them, and should repent and sin no more. But Paul points out that such laws were designed as foreshadows to lead the Jews to Christ, and now that the substance has come, we are no longer under the shadow.

    Paul also understood that new converts to Christianity might not understand that they are no longer required to follow the Old Testament ceremonial laws. Some apparently did not even believe that they could eat meat of any sort (Romans 14:2). Thus, Paul indicates that we should not judge (in the sense of condemning) the weaker brother, since that person is attempting to honor the Lord by his actions (his heart is in the right place) – see Romans 14:3,6. And it would be wrong to ask them to eat what they consider to be unclean until they have grown in their theology to the point where they recognize that in the New Testament “nothing is unclean in itself” (Romans 14:14). God looks at a person’s motives. Thus, if a person thinks he is eating something unclean (even though it isn’t), and eats anyway, he is sinning because his heart is not right before God. (Romans 14:14). But none of those passages would make sense if the dietary restrictions of the Old Testament were still binding on New Testament believers.

    > (Personal note: We will all stand before God individually, and we will be judged for our own actions.) Verse 20 is no longer talking about good commands of God, but the commands of men.
    3:1 continues the thought. Don’t worry about earthly commands, but be mindful of heavenly things. (I think we’re obeying this command through this discussion, Dr. Lisle!) In that theme of putting off the earthly and putting on the heavenly, Paul tells us to stop sinning, no matter what walk of life you come from. Christ is in us all.
    I see no conflict with my view in this book.

    If you agree that the dietary laws are not binding on New Testament Christians, then I agree that there are no problems. But if dietary laws are binding on New Testament believers, then you’ll have a contradiction: “Paul tells us to stop sinning” (I agree) and that we’re not to be concerned about earthly commands (those pertaining to food/drink/festivals). But if the earthly (ceremonial) commands of the Old Testament are still binding, then it is impossible to not be concerned about them and simultaneously stop sinning – for to stop sinning we must necessarily be concerned about obedience to the standing laws of God.

    > Hebrews notes:
    4:11 says that we need to make every effort to rest (lol – effort to rest) and avoid disobedience. v. 12 is very famous. The word of God judges our attitudes, and we will give an account.
    6:1 gives a list of elementary teachings (milk) that we shouldn’t have to have laid out for us again. Among them is repentance from sin that leads to death.


    > Melchizedek (Shem!!)

    That’s an extra-biblical myth. Melchizedek is not Shem. Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Hebrews 7:3). Whether that’s literal or simply meant that such things are not recorded in Scripture, it cannot be applied to Shem, because Shem did have a recorded father, Noah (Genesis 6:10), a genealogy (Genesis 5:5-32), a beginning of days (Genesis 6:10), and an end of life (Genesis 11:10-11). Okay, back to the main stuff…

    > was of a different priesthood, just as Jesus became a priest, though not a descendent of Levi. 7:18, the Levitical priesthood was imperfect, but Jesus had a better covenant (v. 22). We no longer need sacrifices for sin, because Jesus sacrificed once for all. (v. 27)
    We already talked about ch. 8, and I have no problems with the new covenant.

    All good.

    > I will note that v. 13 should be read in the KJV. NIV doesn’t get that one correct. The key here is not the abolition of the old covenant, but that it would be written on our hearts.

    No, it’s not the covenant that is written on our hearts. It is the moral law of God that is written on our hearts in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:33). Big difference. The Old Covenant is over. The Law of God stands.

    Both the NIV and KJV faithfully render Hebrews 8:13. I wonder why you thought otherwise; was it the word “obsolete” that bothered you? That’s actually a better rendering of the Greek word which is “palaioo” and means “to wax old, decay, to be worn out, or to declare obsolete.” It’s the same Greek word that KJV translates as “decayeth” in the same verse. It carries the connotation of being worn out from use and being ready to be replaced. This is the clear meaning from the rest of the verse: “But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” (NAS). The Old Covenant is over; we’re in the New Covenant now. The author of Hebrews speaks of the Old Covenant rituals in past tense (e.g. Hebrews 9:1). Hebrews 10:9 states that God had to take away the first covenant in order to establish the second.

    > I can’t summarize this and do it justice. “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

    Do you think it would insult the Spirit of grace if we were to continue to offer animal sacrifices today, as if the sacrifice of Jesus was insufficient? Would it be trampling the Son of God under foot to continue to live under the Old Testament administration as if Christ had not yet come?

    > 12:1 “let us throw off … the sin that so easily entangles”
    13:9 says that ceremonial foods have no value to those who eat them.
    I see no conflict in Hebrews with my view.

    Despite your helpful clarifications, I still have trouble understanding exactly what you believe. In some places, it sounds like you believe that we ought to follow the Old Testament ceremonial laws today and that it is wrong to treat them as if they were set aside (e.g. dietary laws, some feasts). In other places, it sounds like you believe that they have been set aside, and therefore we need not follow them today (animal sacrifices). Hebrews clearly indicates that the ceremonial system of the Old Testament is over. Yes?

    It may be helpful to recognize that there is both (1) continuity and (2) discontinuity between the two Testaments. The Bible teaches both, and therefore we must accept both. We use Scripture to understand which parts of the Old Testament continue in the New, and which parts have been set aside.

    Consider this way of understanding the text. The external symbolic rituals of the Old Testament ceremonial laws (dietary restrictions, animal sacrifices, etc.) were given to the Jews to follow until the coming of Messiah as a way of teaching them about salvation and sanctification. When the Messiah came, the Jews were released from the guardian of those ceremonial laws, and were invited along with the Gentiles to be a part of the New Covenant with its new administration. The Old Covenant with its symbolic rituals is obsolete now that the substance to which such shadows pointed has come: Christ. Let’s not go back to serving shadows, now that we enjoy freedom in Christ. But the meaning behind the shadows remains: salvation in Christ and separation from ungodliness. The moral laws of Scripture are a reflection of God’s unchanging nature; and believers should strive to keep them out of gratitude for the salvation that God freely bestowed upon us, and because it is the right thing to do. I’ve shown the Scriptures previously that teach this, so I won’t repeat them here. This is just a summary.

    You’ve made some remarks about the books of James, 1 John, 2 Peter, and Jude. I largely agree with what you have stated, so I won’t add anything.

    > It may end up being true that you are better at debating than I am. If that is the case, I hope you are right when you win the argument, because God is a better debater than either of us. Don’t aim to win the debate, or save face in this public forum, or whatever; aim to be right in the eyes of God. Let God be true and every man (including myself) a liar. (Ro. 3:4)

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    If you have follow-up questions and comments, please keep them brief and I will try to respond. I will probably not have time for any more lengthy exchanges. To that end, perhaps try to keep it to what you see as the most important points. I hope the verses and explanations I have provided will be helpful to you in your future studies.

    God bless.

    • Brian Forbes says:

      It took you a while to get to this, and I was beginning to think that you weren’t going to. I’m glad you did.

      You wrote “God bless” at the end of your correspondence, and I have to tell you that God has blessed me by your hand. (James 2:16) I am impressed by your answers as well; John 7:24 was a very keen insight! We are indeed to judge people’s actions. For me, the most influential statement you made in your response is this:
      “If Jesus’s statement in Matthew 5:18 were to indicate that no changes in any law may take place until heaven and earth pass away, then Jesus cannot be our Savior and High Priest! This is because the Old Testament Law required the High Priest to be a descendent of Aaron – which Jesus wasn’t. God changed that law with the Priesthood (Hebrews 7:11-18).”

      I think that I may leave this thread as it is. You’ve certainly given me a lot to think about. I might be able to add a few insights, but we’re starting to repeat ourselves. I call to mind what I said about blindness earlier. You have decided what you want to believe is true based on what you have chosen to believe is the correct interpretation of scripture. You will insist (as you have before) that it is just what the scriptures say and not what you say the scriptures say, implying that there is very little room for bias or errors in interpretation, and I will continue to believe that we are a product of our own choices. I’m as much choosing my position as anyone. We become what we want to be, even if some are more influenced by external, unchanging facts than others. This discussion has probably moved me as much as it’s going to (which is substantial, I’ll admit), and you’re probably not going to be changed by much of what I have to say. I pray that God slaps one of us upside the head with the truth, because I sincerely believe we are both being honest, and we can’t both be right. I will read your answer many times more in the future, and maybe God will speak to me in his proper time.

      Tying up some loose ends (so this can be my last message):
      Why haven’t I been citing scripture with every opinion I give? I really appreciate that you do this. It has been helpful to me to see your logic. The reason I think that you do this more than I do is because you have an audience of many, whereas I’m having this discussion with you. You’re doing it for others (presumably), and I’m doing it for me. Many times people argue their position to change the mind of their opponent, and I don’t have that as a primary motivation in this discussion. As the head of my family, I’m imposing this standard on my wife and kids. I am accountable, not only for my own actions, but for those of my little ones, and I want to be sure I’m right. I believe you will notice that I do bring scriptures in when I think that they would help you to see my point, and I have welcomed you to ask me to prove that my questionable assertions were true. For the same reason, when you list scriptures, even if I do look up most of them, I sometimes skip the ones that prove a point that I already agree with. This saves a lot of time, as I’m sure you know. I have found that the scriptures you cite are not always convincing to me. Likewise, the scriptures I have cited are not always convincing to you. You have often given me your reasons for this, and I appreciate the time you’ve given me. There really are too many rabbit trails here for me to get to everything. I know that if I give reasons for every little detail, the conversation would become far too much work, and I would lose this opportunity. I am at your mercy.

      I would also like to point out that the way we’ve become accustomed to citing scripture in the modern day is good, but it’s not the only way it is done in scripture. Jesus didn’t give the location of the passage when He quoted it. Neither did Paul. They just asserted their teachings, which obviously had their basis in scripture, and sometimes they even quoted word for word, but they didn’t require the method for every little assertion. Sometimes they made generalizations (which I tend to do a lot), and sometimes they got specific (which is more your style). They were always drawing from God’s wisdom, though, through scripture and personal revelation as prophets. I agree that it’s better to cite your sources, but it’s not always necessary. It can be unnecessarily laborious.

      “Does the Bible teach three levels of commandments […]?”
      Do I believe it’s ok to break the smaller commandments? NO! Do I believe there’s a variable degree of punishment and offense to God depending on how God sees each commandment? Yes, I do. (Mt. 22:36-40, 23:23 Mark 3:29, 14:21, 1 John 5:16-17, etc.) I believe that we ought to teach the more important commands first and leave the nuances for later. That’s the basis for my hierarchy, and I can support it with more scripture, but it might just end up being as long as this thread is, so I’ll leave it there. You can agree with it or not. It’s your choice.

      You tend to use hermeneutical rules and logical fallacies as though they are as solid and valid as scripture. You seem to be under the impression that if someone has classified a particular line of reasoning as fallacious that all such lines are fallacious. Give me chapter and verse on that one! I am smart enough to see why most of the published rules of logic are valid, but I’m also humble enough to know that I might be missing something; there could be a special case. I have seen flaws (exceptions, misapplications, irrelevancies, etc.) in the standard accepted laws of logic. You can sometimes interpret a passage one of several (hundred) ways, and the only way to verify your interpretation is to use other scriptures, which can also be interpreted in many ways. Is there, then, a way to prove beyond all doubt what is true? I think that there is not! There’s not, at least, by our own efforts. We are not flawless in our sinful nature. We can only ever make best guesses. But now we’re back to our other topic again, and we’re about to talk in more circles. I would never say that David was a worm, and I’m pretty sure you weren’t saying I was. I was saying that there were major parts of Ps. 22 that should be read literally (esp. 16-18), and that simply because Zech. 14 is prophetic doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be interpreted literally. I look forward to reading your book when you publish it.

      Shem/Melchizedek: That’s one way to interpret those scriptures. Is it the only way? Would you tell God that He’s wrong if He said that they were the same person? Could you be reading something as literal that might be figurative? Let me quote you, “For example, it is the word used for the mighty men ‘of old’ in Genesis 6:4. These men may have been very old indeed, but they were certainly not eternally (‘forever’) old!” This may not seem like a valid comparison to you, but it does to me. Maybe the author of Hebrews was simply saying that his priestly authority didn’t come from his father or mother, and that he didn’t pass the authority down through his generations. Of course, you will use your knowledge of the Greek language to help you determine exactly what this could mean. Do you think that the guy really was a direct creation of God, like Adam?

      I think you’re spot on with the third reason. We are required to obey God. The natural question, though, is, “Or else what?” Maybe it’s just offensive to God and nothing will happen. Maybe breaking what I think are lesser commands would result in God saying that it would have been better if we were never born. (Mt. 26:24) I don’t know all the reasons why we need to keep this stuff, and I don’t perfectly know God’s values. All I can do is read scripture (2 Tim. 3:16), compare God’s punishments and reactions (1 Sam 15:22, etc.), check my conscience (Gen. 3:22), and hope that I’m right.

      My position on Jews is that they, like Gentiles, have the “option to obey” in everything in the sense that they won’t lose their salvation no matter what they do or don’t do. Salvation from hellfire comes by faith and grace. I do see them as distinct, though, as there is still benefit to circumcision. (Ro. 3:1-2) Is Israel God’s son? (Jer. 31:9) Is she a wife? (Jer. 3) Are Gentiles grafted in? (Ro. 11:17, Col. 3:11) Is there no longer a distinction? Then why all the talk of Jews and Gentiles throughout the NT. Just call them Jews. Are you a blonde haired Christian? That’s the kind of distinction we’re starting to get into here. So I do think there’s a difference, but it’s not major. I’m not sure there’s much difference in how Jews and Gentiles practice their faith, though, apart from the foreskin and the land promises. (It was specifically divided in Joshua – a boring section of scripture if I ever read one.) The more we grow, the more we obey. I am pretty sure it’s impossible to keep the sacrificial laws right now, and the proof of that is in the fact that non-Christian Jews don’t. It’s not the first time in history where this has happened. I won’t be opposed if God sees fit to start it again, not for atonement, but as a commemoration. Again, I point to my reading of Zech. 14. I don’t agree that all the nations of earth will inherit the land of Israel, which has set boundaries in scripture. The idea that the whole earth will be the inheritance is interesting, but neither of us want to get into eschatology here. My footing here isn’t as sure as on the clearer issues of faith, and it wouldn’t take much to sway me. I’ll keep my options open for now. As to giving scriptural passages for every part of my position on that, it would take a book to lay it all out, and I’m sure I’d modify my position as I was writing it. If I listed only a couple, you’d answer them again and we wouldn’t be done. I’m not sure that this is what God has for my life at this time. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not. I’ve looked up the scriptures you listed and found no conflict with my view. If I’m blind, may God help me to see.

      Galatians 3:29, “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” – there are many things I could say about this, but I’ll just say that there are more promises to Abraham than descendants and land. We are children according to faith. It does seem to indicate in that passage that there is no distinction, but then Acts 15 and 1 Cor. 7:18-20 seems to show that there is. Nothing is exactly the same as something else. If you scrutinize any grouping closely enough, you will eventually find the place where the comparison breaks down; then you make another category. If you make the category broad enough, even big differences start to blend in. Maybe this is saying that the distinction is minor rather than non-existent. I mean, there still are male and female… or are we really one? This is the focus of many of Jesus’ parables, esp. the the wedding feast. (Mt. 22) Gentiles need to put on the proper wedding clothes, e.g. feeding and clothing the poor!

      Foods: I believe you’ll find that if all foods were declared clean, there would be no prohibition of eating blood. (Acts 15:20) God declared the food on the sheet clean, just as he cleansed the Gentiles, in fulfillment of the many prophesies. Still, I don’t see this as being one of God’s higher tier Laws. I think it’s wrong, but we can commit worse sins. If we get too overbearing, we might forget about mercy. We grow into righteousness.

      You wrote, “…even Christians that assemble on Saturday seem to have no problem driving to church, though this was forbidden under Old Testament law since car engines involve kindling a flame (Exodus 35:3).”
      To me, this is ridiculous. In what universe is turning a key laborious? It’s more effort to get myself up off the couch when I need to go to bed. Having babies that make messes on themselves 7-10 times a day (that’s not work!), and then saying you can’t turn the key to your ignition… c’mon! To me, the passage is saying that building a fire from scratch is an example of what would qualify as work. And it is… unless the wood is next to the fireplace and you have kerosene and a lighter. There’s also something to be said for having joy in a hobby – a relaxing pastime (e.g. whittling or knitting), and finding it tedious. I sit on my bottom all week, and I don’t think it’s work to play tag with the kids. Someone else may work out all week, and the thought of not working out is a relief. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      You said, “However, where I would disagree with you, is that I would argue that it is indeed possible to learn from the Scriptures which laws are still in force today, and which have been set aside. God has not left us to “guess” about His commandments. God is not so cruel as to demand obedience from us, and then leave us to guess about what He wants (Deuteronomy 30:11-14, 1 John 5:3).”
      On the one hand, I agree with your correction. Most cases are pretty easy to discern. However, I have read the scriptures long enough and carefully enough to know that it’s not all easy. This issue, for instance, is not obvious to everyone. That’s why you had to write an article – to make it simpler, to bring the relevant scriptures together in one place. There’s grace in knowing that the penalty is stricter for someone who ought to know than one who couldn’t know. (Mt. 11:21, John 9:41)

      On Mt. 5, I have to admit that I didn’t read the whole thing in the Greek. I’m not as advanced as that in scholarship. However, I did memorize it (NIV). I kept my Strong’s close by. The keys: 1. the smallest letter 2. until heaven and earth disappear. You said there were contradictions between my view and what is written, but I still don’t see it, even after your elaboration. The food issue is an issue in itself. I simply don’t agree that any of the commonly cited passages say that it’s now ok for Jews to eat pork. If those laws still apply, it’s because they were never set aside. Most of those food passages are about food sacrificed to idols. The blood sacrifices are issues in themselves as well. I don’t have a problem keeping all the Laws, provided I know how. I planted an orange tree, for instance, and I haven’t yet eaten its fruit. This year I was supposed to give the produce to God, and animals (opossums?) ate it before I picked it. I don’t ignore any commands on purpose. Like your example of starting a car on the Sabbath, I just interpret the things according to the best of my ability. I hope it pleases God. Your assurance in your own reading of scripture isn’t going to give me confidence. I need to hear it from God. Otherwise, I go with my own convictions. It’s the best anyone can do. As I read Mt. 5, I see Jesus correcting what would be the greatest misunderstanding of church history – namely, that the Law and the Prophets no longer apply to believers. That incorporates the Mosaic Law, so you just made the statement broader by your correction.

      Communion vs. passover:
      The Polycarp quote calls it “putting away the leaven” – which means passover and not communion. Many churches use super puffy bread in their communion services. If they are one in the same, we really have deviated through the years.

      The meaning of the feasts is a very indepth study, and I recommend you do a search. That’s a huge rabbit trail.

      Major theme 3:
      I think we’re in agreement about the Old Covenant vs. the New, but our differences are in what that looks like practically.

      “First, the ‘I trust Jesus over Paul’ argument isn’t cogent because the Bible itself teaches that all its Scriptures are God-breathed (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16).”
      LOL 🙂

      “What about the command to not return to the yoke of slavery to the Old Testament ceremonial laws (Galatians 5:1)?”
      You mentioned this twice. The first time I ignored it, because I’m trying to let you move on to other things. But this time you were more forceful about your question. Verse 6 is my answer. “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” If you obey the food laws in faith by love for God, you are not yoking yourself to the old administration, but the new. Paul himself says that it doesn’t hurt to avoid eating for the sake of the other man’s conscience, so it’s not wrong to keep these commands, even if they are set aside. As I said before, it’s safer to obey by faith than to disobey by faith. You are confident in your interpretations on the food passages. I’m not confident in your interpretation.

      The section of literal vs. poetic is a huge rabbit trail. Suffice it to say, I still think that God’s word isn’t always clear, and sometimes the ambiguity is on purpose. (John 12:40, Mt. 13:11)

      As of now, I’m open to the idea that you’re correct in some of your interpretations, but I still see a number of contradictions throughout scripture with your view. With time (yes, time is still a key player), I may come to truth. I hope to come back to read and learn from this thread again. It may be that your reasoning is far superior to mine, God knows, and you will never come to my position. In that case, I hope you are right. More people are applying your interpretation to their lives than mine, and I’d rather more people be right.

      As to the time required for considering a point, it is relevant, even if it’s irrelevant. There’s certainly a lower bound, and this topic simply takes more than a couple hours to get through. I agree that some people can calculate the data faster and more accurately, but they can’t do it in an instant (like a computer). It’s also not relevant, because the point was moot.

      There were other things worth mentioning in your response, but as I said before, I’ll let them stand. We may be under the obligation to warn people of their errors, but we are not obligated to scrutinize every little detail. (For proof of this, I refer you to the numerous narrative scriptures, for example Judges 21:20-22, which do not always make a moral judgment about what happened.)

      One point that I haven’t presented so far is that if there is such a thing as following a conviction (Ro. 14:5), I have followed mine. I don’t do this because I feel like it will get me closer to God, as I know that there is a clear distinction between love and approval. I do it because I felt convicted as I read Leviticus and Matthew 5. If it isn’t God’s leading that I’m following, may He teach me how to hear his voice! (John 10:27) I want to follow Him!! If your position is correct, I still have to follow this conviction, because it’s one that, like Hosea, has been given to me directly. We must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

      The major issues of sin don’t stem from trying to follow God and failing to understand. Misinterpretations can lead to minor sin, but I think there’s some grace for that. (Luke 23:34) The real issue is that we know what’s right to do and don’t do it. We know what is wrong, and we do it anyway. We are sinful by nature. We need to work on the obvious sin in our lives even before we get to the nuances and distinctions between the old and new covenants. I know I still have a long way to go before I reach perfection. (Mt. 5:48) I’m still repenting and mourning the obvious and willful sins I committed last night. We need to make love the center of our lives, our standard, our motivation.

      I’ll leave you with this. Some people get really excited when they meet football quarterbacks in real life. Others think musicians are one in a billion. They get shaky in the company of famous people. I got to correspond with Jason Lisle. What an honor. (Don’t let this go to your head, though. I’d much rather talk to Jesus! Who is more famous than Jesus?) I may disagree with you on a small point of doctrine, but it’s clear to me that you are serving our mutual Father. I think your pile in heaven will be one worth talking about. I have enjoyed our connection so far, and I hope we’re able to communicate more on other topics in the future. It is indeed an honor to serve with you.

    • Micah Jank says:

      >>>>Animal sacrifice was not our gift to God; it was God’s gift to us – to the Old Testament believers specifically. Do you think that God gets some kind of sick enjoyment out of burning animals? Of course not. Hebrews 10:6,8 tell us that God doesn’t like burnt offerings at all – he takes no pleasure in them.

      Dr. Lisle, first things, i agree with you wholeheartedly in this aspect. I dont believe God takes any enjoyment out of burning animals. My question comes from reading Leviticus where it deals with the burnt offerings. Many times it says the burnt offerings are a ‘pleasing aroma to the Lord’ (Leviticus 1:9 as one example).
      These verses seem to contradict the claim that God ‘takes no pleasure in them[burnt offerings].’
      Now im sure there is a reasonable explanation for this but i just dont know what it is and i would be stumped if someone showed this to me after telling them that God takes no pleasure in burnt offerings.

      I’m hoping to get your input on this issue. Appreciate any help you can give me!

      • Dr. Lisle says:

        Hi Micah,

        The answer to your question is found in Psalm 51:16-19. God doesn’t care about burnt offerings for their own sake; He cares about the attitude of the heart of the person who offers the sacrifice. Let me explain:

        There is nothing innate to burnt offerings that God likes. This is in contrast to many of the pagan gods of the various ancient religions. People felt that they had to please or appease their gods by offering to them sacrifices of various sorts. The biblical God is not like that. He cannot be bribed with sacrifices because God doesn’t need anything that we can give Him. God already owns everything on Earth (Psalm 50:12). He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10-11). So why should we think offering a burnt animal to God would please Him – an animal that God already owns? (Psalm 50:13)

        Obedience is what God desires – not sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). This is the context of Hebrews 10, which is quoting Psalm 40:6. Burnt offerings do not accomplish salvation, and God takes no pleasure in them. He does take great pleasure in His Son who was and is fully obedient (Matthew 3:17). Many of the Old Testament verses of God detesting sacrifice are instances where people have had a cavalier attitude about obedience. They openly rebelled against God and then thought they could be made right by bribing God with burnt offerings – like the pagan gods. But they were not genuinely repentant. The sacrifices were meaningless to God because the intention behind them was not right. (See Isaiah 1:11 and the surrounding context. Also Jeremiah 6:20, and Amos 5:21-22).

        God would much rather that people obey Him than give Him an animal that He already owns. But people don’t obey Him. We are wicked sinners and the justice of God demands that the penalty for sin be paid. God in His mercy forgave us and took the penalty for sin on Himself. God took “pleasure” at the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross because it actually accomplished the salvation of His people (Ephesians 5:2, Isaiah 53:10). This was the one sacrifice that actually saves. Burnt animal offerings are merely symbolic of it (Hebrews 9:9).

        God in His grace gave the Old Testament believers sacrifice as a gift to them. It was a physical “picture” of the Messiah who would come. Burnt offerings are not something that God enjoys for His own sake. But God is pleased at what such sacrifices represent: the salvation of all His children. All examples of God seemingly taking pleasure in the sacrifice of burnt offerings are not because God likes burning flesh, but because of the attitude of repentance, gratitude, and obedience behind the action. A great example is Noah offering a sacrifice after the flood (Genesis 8:20-22). It was the attitude of Noah’s heart that was ultimately pleasing to the Lord (Psalm 51:16-19).

  7. Ray says:

    Glad to see you back Dr. Lisle, I was getting worried. I would like to add that I am very impressed and delighted with the detailed responses that you give to some of the comments you receive. Especially considering they are not from your field of expertise. Wonderful to see how you have dug into the scriptures. Great lesson for my kids.
    Some of the guest comments (not necessarily from this post) frustrate me because people don’t seem to think through what you have already stated, but you always respond with great patience and with answers that must have taken much study and thought. Thank you so much, I have learned a great deal just in this last post. It has motivated me to search the scriptures for myself. This last response will also aid in talking to a friend from a “7th day” back ground that I have been witnessing to for several years.
    I would love to get your thoughts on keeping the Sabbath at some later date when time permits. I have to work Sunday’s and sometimes I’m not sure just what is right, especially after talking to my “7th day friend”. I’m not sure I could get a better answer than what you could provide except maybe from someone like John MacArthur.

    Thanks again, and keep up the good fight!

  8. Christopher Culter says:

    Dr. Lisle,

    God’s moral laws stem from His nature, (it’s wrong to lie, because God is not a liar). In what way would you say God’s command against homosexuality stems from His nature?

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Christopher,

      We wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a one-to-one correspondence between each of God’s moral laws and each aspect of His nature. But we do expect that morality in general is rooted in God’s nature, which is why moral laws are universal and invariant. Some laws do tie in very closely with a particular aspect of God – not lying because God is truth. Others reflect multiple aspects. The commands against homosexual behavior reflect God’s fidelity, purity, and love.

      God intended for sex to be a special kind of intimacy between a husband and wife. Homosexual behavior is therefore an impure use of sex. But since God is pure and holy, so should we be. Moreover, since sex outside of marriage is unfaithful (adultery), we should not engage in it because God is faithful. And since God designed the human body and the human mind, He knows what kind of relationships are best for us, and will bring us the most joy and satisfaction. His command against homosexual behavior (or any sex outside of marriage) is ultimately for our benefit, so that we can maximally enjoy life. This of course is a reflection of His love for us.

      • Christopher Cutler says:

        //God intended for sex to be a special kind of intimacy between a husband and wife. Homosexual behavior is therefore an impure use of sex.//

        Wouldn’t this be considered arbitrary?

        //Moreover, since sex outside of marriage is unfaithful (adultery)//

        Wouldn’t this also be considered arbitrary as well? Or are neither of these arbitrary because God has a good reason for them?

        Is it possible that God’s command against homosexuality stems from His nature, in that He is triune? In other words, because he created man AND woman in His image for the purpose of coming together to become one flesh, it (in a way) reflects the Trinity?

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          Hi Christopher,

          > Is it possible that God’s command against homosexuality stems from His nature, in that He is triune? In other words, because he created man AND woman in His image for the purpose of coming together to become one flesh, it (in a way) reflects the Trinity?

          I think there might be something to that, yes.

          > Wouldn’t this also be considered arbitrary as well? Or are neither of these arbitrary because God has a good reason for them?

          God is never arbitrary. He always has a good reason for what He does. Sometimes He allows us to understand the reason. (But He is under no obligation to share that reason with us.)

          God made male and female for a number of reasons. One of which is that marriage is used as an analogy for Christ and His people (Ephesians 5:25, 2 Corinthians 11:2, Revelation 19:7, Isaiah 54:5, Jeremiah 31:32). So when God’s people worship other god’s, God likens this to infidelity (Judges 2:17, Exodus 34:15, Hosea 1:2). Marriage is a union of two different persons with different roles for each, just as Christ and the church are united but with different roles.

          • Christopher Cutler says:

            Thanks Dr. Lisle. I’m just trying to understand this better. So if the command against homosexuality does stem from God’s nature, and is indeed a moral law, you would say that it is not a command that God could change His mind about, correct?

            • Dr. Lisle says:

              Yes, that’s right. God created human beings with a particular nature. Given that nature, sex outside of marriage is unfaithful. But God by His nature is always faithful.

              • Christopher Cutler says:

                Dr. Lisle,

                Any chance you could do a post on different moral laws and how they correspond with God’s nature? Because there are other ones besides homosexuality. For instance, murder; I’ve heard someone say “it’s wrong to murder because God is not a murderer.” But that doesn’t make sense; how could God murder? We all deserve to die, so it’s never unlawful for Him to take any of our lives. Or “it’s wrong to steal, because God is not a thief”, but how could God steal? Everything belongs to Him. It seems more circumstantial than anything. I understand the importance of trying to think of explanations for God’s commands (so we have answers for people who ask questions like: “is an action morally right because God commands it, or does God command it because it’s right?”) I know you said earlier: “We wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a one-to-one correspondence between each of God’s moral laws and each aspect of His nature.” That was very helpful to me, but I still find it difficult to explain some of His moral laws. If I had to take a shot at explaining stealing and murdering, I’d probably just say: God loves, so should we. Stealing and murdering is not loving, therefore we shouldn’t steal and murder. But I know there are better ways to explain these, and the rest of God’s laws.

                • Dr. Lisle says:

                  Hi Christopher,

                  It would be a fun post to cover this in greater detail. The universality, the invariance, and the objective nature of moral laws all stem from the omnipresent, unchanging, sovereignty of God. That’s true for all moral laws. Regarding the idea that we shouldn’t do ____ because God doesn’t do ____, that is true only to the extent that we are to emulate God. We need to remember that there are some fundamental differences between God and His creations. As such there are some things that are right for God and wrong for us – such as to receive worship, or to take vengeance.

                  Your explanations for murder and stealing are exactly right – such things are not loving, and as such they are not consistent with the character of God. All moral laws are applications of loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:40). I think you want a more detailed explanation for each, which is fine. Rushdoony’s book on “The Institutes of Biblical Law” might be helpful to you.

                  We can kill animals without sinning because God has given us dominion over them. But we may not kill a person (except under explicit circumstances which God has specified) because people are made in the image of God and belong to Him alone. We may not steal because God has distributed wealth according to His will (1 Samuel 2:7), and to redistribute it by force would be contrary to His will and to His decree. This also means that it is fundamentally immoral for government to redistribute wealth. God has not authorized the government to do that. Rushdoony’s book answers a lot of these types of issues.

                  • Tam says:

                    Hold it, Mr. Lisle! Doesn’t the Bible itself say that all earthly government is established by God, and thus to serve God one must also be a law-abiding citizen? Romans 13:1-2 and Peter 2:13-14 pretty much make this unambiguous, …

                    [Dr. Lisle: Be careful to avoid a sweeping generalization fallacy and/or take Scripture out of context. Yes, government is established by God. As such, the principle of government is good and Christians should, as a general principle, obey ruling authorities. But the Bible does give some exceptions to this, and you seem to be unaware of those exceptions. God appoints kings (and other authority figures) to their positions (Daniel 2:21), and thus kings are responsible to God for their actions and will answer to God for how they rule (Psalm 2:10-11). Unfortunately, some rulers are very wicked, and create wicked laws (e.g. 2 Kings 8:26-27; 13:1-2, 10-11). This is detestable since God established government to be a force for good (Proverbs 16:12). When an evil king commands a Christian to sin, should the Christian obey the king? No, the Christian should obey God (Daniel 3:1-30). Romans 13 is addressing a government that is acting rightly, punishing evil (not a corrupt government that punishes good), as you would have seen if you had continued reading to verses 3 and 4. Likewise, 1 Peter 2:15 indicates that civil obedience is the will of God, and this therefore pertains to civil laws that are not contrary to biblical law.]

                    so how exactly is the redistribution of wealth by governments ‘immoral’ if their policy is willed by God himself?

                    [Dr. Lisle: That policy is not willed by God. That’s the point. Just because God appoints a ruler does not imply that God endorses or approves of everything that ruler does. God nowhere authorizes the government to redistribute wealth; that is not the purpose for which God ordained governmental authority. Thus, for the government to steal from some people and give to others as it sees fit is just as wrong as it would be for me as an individual to steal from some people for the sake of giving to others as I see fit.]

                    Indeed, Jesus told his people to stop grumbling, accept Roman rule and ‘render unto Caesar’, a foreign despot. Therefore, pray tell me what is wrong with your OWN government rightfully requesting taxes to finance the expenses of running your country, providing needed services and keeping societal order?

                    [Dr. Lisle: Nothing. The government may rightfully tax people for the purpose of funding police and military to protect its citizens from evil-doers. However, when the government taxes its citizens excessively and/or for purposes that God has not authorized, such as redistributing wealth, this is wicked and amounts to theft. And the people who put such practices in place will have to answer to God for their actions.]

                    To conclude, when the IRS jumps on you for mucking around with your taxes, shouldn’t you own up and receive punishment if you’re a true Christian?

                    [Dr. Lisle: First, a Christian should pay his or her taxes fairly and honestly from the start. Second, if a Christian sinfully withheld tax and was dishonest, then he or she should repent, own up to the mistake and be willing to pay a punitive fine in addition to back taxes. Third, governmental authorities should stop excessively taxing their citizens to fund programs that God has not authorized. It is a sign of apostasy when a government takes more in taxes than God has us tithe (e.g. 10%)]

  9. Christopher Cutler says:

    Thanks Dr. Lisle! I’ll keep an eye out for that post if you decide to write it; I look forward to reading it. And thanks for the book recommendation, I’ll be sure to check that out.

    • Christopher Cutler says:

      Dr. Lisle, one more question in regards to moral laws; do you think it’s ever okay to lie under any circumstance? I’m sure you have heard the scenarios, so I won’t list any. But do you think any of the difficult ones justify lying, for instance if it will save a life?

      • Chris C says:

        Still very interested to get your thoughts on this one Dr. Lisle. No hurry 🙂 …just whenever you got a moment. I just wanted to remind you, in case you forgot.

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          Thanks for the reminder. Yes, I believe a lie can be justified under certain unusual (and rare) circumstances, such as the preservation of human life. Many of God’s commands have explicit or implicit exceptions. This is especially obvious when a situation brings two biblical principles into conflict (e.g. saving a life & telling the truth).

          Sometimes there is a third alternative (and we should take it), but realistically there often isn’t. God expects us to discern the weightier matters of the law from the lighter matters (Matthew 23:23) such that we always obey the greatest commandments (loving God and loving others). (There can be no exception to the commandment to love God, because it is the greatest commandment).

          As a specific example, it seems that Rahab was commended for lying to save the life of the spies (James 2:25). The “another way” implies that she sent the spies a different direction than the direction she told the guards to go.

          God bless.

          • Brian Forbes says:

            I recommend “The Hiding Place” (Ten Boom) for more commentary on this question. It really shaped my opinion on the matter, and it’s a darn good book to boot.

          • Chris C says:

            Interesting. I wasn’t sure which way you were gonna go with that. I have heard the Rahab argument, but I have also heard that God didn’t condone the lie itself. And I agree it would be better to save a life than not save a life. But in the case of a Nazi at your door looking for Jews, wouldn’t it be the fallacy of bifurcation to say that your only options are (1) lying to them or (2) telling the Nazis where the Jews are? Couldn’t you just say “I know where they are but I’m not telling you” or “I refuse to answer any of your questions”? Wouldn’t that also be commendable, displaying such faith?

            Would you say it’s okay to lie about knowing Christ to save your family’s life?

            • Dr. Lisle says:

              Hi Chris,

              There may be some cases where indeed a third alternative exists. But in the Nazi example above, I don’t think that is so. Such a response as “I refuse to answer” would reveal that something is wrong, and would have the same effect as just telling the truth, “I’m hiding them in my attic.” If I were faced with such a situation, I would lie, and I would make it very believable.

              • Chris C says:

                I’m sure I would too. But I was wondering if you could reiterate your point about the example you used about Rahab? I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where God commends the lie itself. I do see that God commends her for taking them in and protecting them. Are there any other examples in Scripture where it’s more clear that God commends a lie? Do you think Jesus would lie if he was faced with such a situation as jews in the attic? Also I noticed you didn’t comment on that last part (lying about knowing Christ to save your family’s life). Do you think a lie like that could ever be justified?

                • Dr. Lisle says:

                  Hi Chris,

                  Happy to clarify. The New Testament twice commends Rahab for her faith and subsequent actions involving the protection of the two spies (Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25). Her main action in this event was deception. She hid the spies, lied about this, and lied about where they went. The Hebrews passage merely commends her faith and the fact that she welcomed the spies in peace. And so it isn’t clear that it endorses the lie. But I think the James passage would be difficult to interpret any other way. It commends Rahab’s actions in sending the messengers “out by another way.” The “another way” is in contrast to the way that she told the guards to go, as Joshua 2:1-8 makes clear. Scripture seems to clearly endorse her deception because she saved the lives of godly men.

                  Would Jesus lie? I agree with Brian that it is hard to accept that He would, and I will shortly argue that He actually can’t. In many ways, in most ways even, Christ is our example and we should do what He would do. I largely agree with the WWJD principle (Ephesians 5:1), but there are exceptions where we are not supposed to do what Jesus would do, or what He did do. For example, Jesus literally went to the cross and died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). We are not supposed to do that, and of course we can’t even if we wanted to. God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13), but we are supposed to deny ourselves (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34).

                  These differences are due to Jesus’ unique status as the God-man. Jesus, as God, cannot lie (Titus 1:2). His Words define truth, and so whatever He says the universe becomes (Mark 4:39, Genesis 1:3). That’s not the case for us. But I do believe that Jesus would authorize us to lie under certain extreme circumstances, such as the Nazi example above. And He apparently commends Rahab for doing just that. You may be wondering what Jesus would do in the Nazi example. I would argue that as God, He sovereignly controls the entire universe such that it would not be possible for that situation to occur for Him, because God cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

                  Your last question is the hardest – do we deny Christ to protect family? I have suggested that when a situation brings two biblical principles into conflict, and when there is no third alternative, the right action is to obey the greater principle. Jesus implies that biblical laws exist in a hierarchy, with some being greater than others, when he tells us of the greatest, and second greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-39). In a very real sense all biblical laws are applications of (1) loving God and (2) loving others (Matthew 22:37-40). The other commands give specific guidance on how to obey these two.

                  The Bible gives some specific illustrations of appropriate exceptions to biblical laws, and these help us understand the hierarchy of those laws. For example, Jesus tells us that it is lawful to untie an animal and lead it to water on the Sabbath day, even though this involves work (Luke 13:15). Apparently, life (even animal life) is a more important principle than resting on the Sabbath. Likewise, from Rahab’s example, we know that the preservation of human life (that is innocent of a capital offense) is a more important principle than being truthful – though of course we should do both whenever possible.

                  But confessing Jesus as Lord is a particularly important truth claim since it is a requirement for Salvation (Romans 10:9-10). Based on how the Bible deals with Peter’s actions (Matthew 26:34-75), I am inclined to think that confessing Christ as Savior is actually a more important principle than the preservation of human life. I could be wrong of course, and I’m happy to be corrected. When I read Matthew 10:33, I would be very reluctant to deny my Lord, even if it meant the death of myself or others. I hope this is helpful.

                  • Tony says:

                    I would like to make an interesting point dr.lisle the commandment was “thou shalt not bare false witness” that’s actually a little different then not lying….

                  • Chris C says:

                    Very helpful, thank you. You might have just convinced me that it is okay in extreme cases, but what about smaller matters such as telling your kids there’s a Santa?

              • Brian Forbes says:

                I think the interesting thing about Ten Boom is that she seemed to come to a different conclusion at the end of the book. I’m leaning towards Dr. Lisle’s position on the Nazis, though. God does send lying spirits at times. Still, I can’t see the Jesus in my head boldly lying about any issue.

                I also see jokes and bluffing games as in a separate category. To me, a lie should include a known falsehood spoken with the intent of having the hearer believe it. And since I can’t always know what people believe about what I say, I have a policy that when I joke, if someone asks if I’m serious, I always give a truthful answer. And in games like poker and Balderdash, it’s expected that a person would “lie”, so the expectation of belief isn’t there. Therefore, I don’t believe it qualifies as a lie. It would be like hitting someone while martial arts training. No harm done.

                The “Bush lied, people died” campaign was interesting too. The expectation of belief should not have been there, because Bush disclosed that he was guessing and his intelligence could have been faulty. The slogan, however, is itself a lie – that is to say, unless they really thought he knew his information was false.

  10. Patrick Gernert says:

    “Jeremiah 1:5 tells me that God forms us in the womb, and that God knew us before we were formed in the womb. What it does not tell us is, at what time during the 9 months of pregnancy God formed us. My guess is that the forming process was not instantaneous, but completed over time, during the 9 months (but taking less than the 9 months). So, then the question is… what is the point in time when God places the person/spirit/soul into the body that God is forming? In other words, knowing that God knew us before we were formed, when did God place us into the body that God has created for us in the mother’s womb? That’s the question that I do not see answered in the bible (or science).”

    This quote I got from my Aunt who supports abortion, just wondering if anyone has a good answer to this. I God formed us the entire time and continues to sustain not only us but the entire universe throughout all time. I’ve always believed because we are made in God’s image and because of the value on life God gives us that we should also support life no matter what age. Thoughts?

    • Christopher Cutler says:

      Hi Patrick,

      Psalm 51:5, David speaks of being a sinful since conception. It appears from the text that we are a person with a spirit at the point of conception. A clump of cells can’t be sinful. That’s my take on it. Hope that helps.

      • Patrick Gernert says:

        Yes it does, thank you!

        • Christopher Cutler says:

          No problem. Also, Matthew 1:20 says, “But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’” The fact that the angel tells Joseph that “the Child who has been conceived” is “of the Holy Spirit” indicates that Jesus was a person at the moment of conception.

  11. Chris C says:

    Dr. Lisle,

    How do we as Christians distinguish between what (we think) the government’s role should be (as far as enforcing God’s laws) and what it shouldn’t be? For example, gay marriage vs homosexuality in general. Both are wrong, but why do we only “fight” (or vote against) the former and not the latter? Why not fight to make lying (in general) against the law, or lusting or taking God’s name in vein? Is there a biblical principle for categorizing which of God’s laws the government should institute and which ones they shouldn’t? I believe Dr. Bahnsen mentioned “criminal” vs “not criminal” as a way of separating categories. I’m not sure if that’s what he meant, though. I was hoping you could provide some insight for me.

  12. Brian Forbes says:

    Hi, Jason. This discussion has a thin layer of dust on it, but I think we can file a small note card with it through this quote by Martin Luther:
    “Paul does not only refer to the Ceremonial Law, but to the whole Law. We are not to think that the Law is wiped out. It stays. It continues to operate in the wicked. But a Christian is dead to the Law. For example, Christ by His resurrection became free from the grave, and yet the grave remains. Peter was delivered from prison, yet the prison remains. The Law is abolished as far as I am concerned, when it has driven me into the arms of Christ. Yet the Law continues to exist and to function. But it no longer exists for me. ”

    Granted, we both know that Martin Luther was not a prophet, but he was a man of God whose opinion holds weight with us. And from what I read today, it holds a lot of weight with me.


    • Brian Forbes says:

      I’m sorry, but there’s yet another thing I’ve found that can add to the discussion.

      “But isn’t Jesus ‘the real thing’?” some Christians say. “And didn’t He render sabbaths and holy days obsolete? Doesn’t Colossians 2:17 say that these things were mere ‘shadows’?”

      The NASB does say “mere shadows”; however, the belittling word mere is not in the Greek text. That is why it appears in italics in the NASB, to indicate that it was added by the translators. Colossians 2:17 does not say that the sabbaths and holy days “were” a shadow. It says they “are” a shadow, present tense. Why is this important? It is important because it shows us that Paul still regarded the Sabbath and Feasts as a presently existing shadow of the Messiah, and not as a bygone shadow of the past which had been made obsolete by the New Covenant.* The shadow of the Messiah is still with New Covenant believers. When we step into the Sabbath and Feasts, we are stepping into the shadow of the Messiah.


      I once said that there were feasts that were satisfied with Jesus’ first coming, and there are more that are yet to be fulfilled (i.e. trumpets). I will let you find the evidence for that, because you’re far more likely to accept it if you search it out.

      I thought the (*) was pertinent too:

      * Paul’s criticism in Colossians was not directed toward the observance of God’s appointed times. Paul was criticizing those who insisted that these appointed times be observed in strict accordance with man-made traditions. The appearance of the words man/men six times in Colossians chapter 2 should make it obvious that Paul was criticizing only man-made doctrines and commandments. The commandment to observe the mo’adim is not a man-made commandment.

  13. Chris C says:

    Can someone please explain to me what the “curse of the law” is. Because from my understanding it means that the law is impossible to keep perfectly therefore anyone who tries to keep it perfectly is under the curse. But no one has ever has ever been able to keep it perfectly, and salvation has always been by faith. So what does it mean that we are “no longer under the curse”? How were the Jews “under the curse” if they were saved by faith? Salvation has always been by faith so how were the Jews “under the curse”? Is it because they had to follow the ceremonial laws?

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Chris,

      The curse of the law is death (Romans 6:23, 5:12, Genesis 2:17). Anyone who attempts to earn salvation by obedience to the law is under the curse of the law because he does not abide by the law (Galatians 3:10). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). By placing our faith in Him, we will never experience the second death, and the first death (physical death) will be undone at the resurrection (John 11:25-26).

      This was also true of the Jews of the Old Testament. The difference is that they looked forward to the coming Messiah, and we look back to the finished work of the Messiah. God gave the Old Testament Jews ceremonial laws to teach them about the atoning work of the Messiah (Galatians 3:23-24). Now that the Object of our faith has come, we are no longer under the requirements of the ceremonial laws (Galatians 3:25). Though individual Jews did receive Christ as Savior, we know that Israel as a nation did not; the nation of Israel tried to earn salvation by works, and therefore remained under the curse of the law (Romans 9:31-32).

      • Chris C says:

        Thanks Dr. Lisle. I understand most of what you said, but for the Jews who received Christ (by looking forward to His coming), how were they ever “under the curse”? When Paul said we are “no longer” under the curse, doesn’t that assume that we were before? But how could believers have ever been under the curse when they were trusting in Christ? For example, Abraham trusted in the Savior that was promised, so how was he under the curse?

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          I don’t think Abraham or any Jews who trusted in Christ before His coming were under a curse; I think Paul in the Galatians passage refers to the time in each individual before he or she was saved. Before receiving Christ, most people think they can justify themselves by good works. But they do not obey all the law all of the time, and are therefore under the curse of the law.

          • Chris C says:

            Got it. So this is kind of a side question; the ceremonial laws pointed towards Christ, but the Jews were obligated to obey them, otherwise they would have been breaking the covenant. On the surface that’s sounds like works, but I know it’s not. So would it be the case that those who were not covenant breakers were only able to obey the ceremonial laws as such, because they had true saving faith?

            • Dr. Lisle says:

              The ceremonial laws were God’s gift to the Jews to teach them about the coming Messiah who would pay their penalty as covenant-breakers. Ceremonial laws do not save, rather they are a way of saying, “I’m saved by God’s grace. I am part of God’s family, and trust that Messiah will come to take away my sins.” Since unbelievers are not saved, it would be inappropriate to expect them to obey the ceremonial laws in their unregenerate condition. When the believing Jews broke the ceremonial laws then this would also be sin, but God’s grace covers that sin too.

  14. Chris C says:

    Dr. Lisle,

    I’m having really difficult time trying to figure exactly what is meant in scripture concerning the NC when it talks about God writing His laws on our hearts (Jer 31:33, Heb 8:10, 10:16). I’ve read numerous commentaries on it, and I’m still having trouble. Some commentaries say “before the law was written on tablets, now it is written on our hearts.” Does that mean the law is referring to the ten commandments (God’s moral law)? If that’s the case, then what is the difference between the law written on believers hearts in the NC and the law written on everyone’s hearts (Rom 2:15)? So far the only commentary I’ve read that kind of makes sense to me is the one in my ESV study bible where it says:

    [Heb 8:10 “Unlike the law’s sacrifices, Christ’s death cleanses the conscience (9:9-14), so that we do the will of God (10:36; 13:21).”]

    But even that is a little unclear to me. Did the believers in the OC not do the will of God? If so, what’s the difference between NC believers with the law written on their hearts and OC believers without the law written on their hearts? I would really appreciate some help. Let me know if you need me to clarify anything. Thanks, Dr. Lisle.

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Chris. Having the “law written on the heart” can refer to either (1) the internal knowledge of morality that God has hardwired into all human beings (Romans 2:15), or (2) the power for obedience that comes with regeneration (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10, 10:16). The first usage applies to all humanity, and is illustrated in passages such as Romans 1:18-20 2:14-15. The second usage applies to believers only, and indicates that God grants His people the desire and power to obey His laws (Deuteronomy 30:6, Psalm 51:10). The Old Testament verses cited above indicate that God has always granted power for obedience to believers. But there is a distinction. The Bible teaches that there is increased power for obedience in the New Covenant (Ezekiel 11:19-20, 36:26-27, Jeremiah 32:39-40).

      There was always a remnant of faithful believers in the Old Testament. But Israel, as a nation, did not walk in faithful obedience to God’s Law (Hosea 4:12, 9:1, 11:7, Jeremiah 1:16, 2:21, 31:32, Isaiah 1:21). The New Covenant is not like the Old, but has increased power for obedience (Jeremiah 31:31-33), and therefore the church has the power to prevail where the nation of Israel did not (Matthew 16:18).

      • Chris C says:

        Okay, I just want to make sure I understand one point. Are you saying there is an increased power of obedience for Christians than there was for old testament believers? Or there is an increased power of the church than there was for the nation of Israel? (I believe scripture is clear about the latter). Or both? I think you’re saying both, but I just want to make sure.

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          Yes, there is increased power for obedience for Christians under the New Covenant than was available for believers under the Old Covenant.

  15. Chris C says:

    Dr. Lisle, I have another question for you. Are the Ten Commandments part of the “Mosaic Law” or separate from it?

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      The Ten Commandments are included in the Mosaic Law.

      • Chris C says:

        Dr. Lisle, I ask in hopes of better understanding what I’ve learned from you so far concerning Galatians and the law. You said the “law” in Gal 3:23-26 is talking about the ceremonial law. But then when you jump over to Gal 4:21-27, Paul is still talking about them desiring to be under the law. But the illustration he uses about Hagar and Sarah implies he is talking about the Mosaic Law at “Mount Sinai” (4:25). If you say that the Mosaic Law includes the Ten Commandments then Paul is really confusing me. Also, I am asking you because I have heard great arguments that the Ten Commandments are not included in the Mosaic Law. Here are seven (brief) convincing points I would really appreciate if you could tell me what you think, because I am unable to spot in flaws in their reasoning. Here is the article: http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/different_laws.html

        • Dr. Lisle says:

          Regarding Galatians 4:25, the commandments God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai were more than just the Ten Commandments – they included the ceremonial laws as well. All the commandments from Exodus chapters 20 through 31 were written on the stone tablets (Exodus 31:18). And these included ceremonial laws (e.g. Exodus 29:18). The Galatians thought they needed to continue to obey the ceremonial laws that pointed forward to the first coming of Christ. Even worse, some of the Galatians thought that they needed to obey the commandments as a means of salvation. Paul corrects both of these errors in his letter to the Galatians.

          The Mosaic Law includes all laws that God gave to Israel through Moses. That’s what the term means and it is how the term “Law of Moses” is used consistently throughout the Bible (e.g. 2 Chronicles 30:16, Ezra 3:2). The Law of Moses is the Law of God because God gave His law through Moses (2 Chronicles 33:8, 34:14, Nehemiah 8:1,14; 9:14, 10:29, Ezra 7:6). The Scriptures teach that what is written in the Law of Moses is what the Lord commands (2 Kings 14:6, 2 Chronicles 25:4, Malachi 4:4). There is no reason to exclude the Ten Commandments from this. They are part of the law that God gave to and through Moses.

          In Mark 7:10, Jesus quotes two commandments, one from the Ten Commandments, and the other is not. But He attributes both to Moses. In verse 8-9 Christ calls these commandments of God. Christ makes no distinction between the Ten Commandments and the other Old Testament commandments – both were given by Moses and both are of God. As per posting rule 6, I’m not going to do a point-by-point rebuttal to an external link. However, if you have a follow-up question about a specific point, I’ll try to answer.

          I will say in general that it’s easy to see that Christ’s comments in Mark 7:8-10 refute the author’s argument (which is a superfluous distinction fallacy). The author’s entire premise is flawed: that the Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God but that the other commands were written by Moses. It’s not true – Exodus 31:18 indicates that the entire testimony, all the commandments God gave to Moses, were written by God’s finger on the stone tablets. Furthermore, Moses had to write (copy) them for inclusion in the book of Exodus and so people could read them, otherwise they would only exist on the tablets of stone in the ark (Exodus 24:4).

  16. Jeff Scanga says:

    Dr. Lisle,
    Thank you for your presentation yesterday at Hawthorne Gospel Church. I’m sure that I’m not the only person present who wished we had all day to listen to you.

    Even after reading The Ultimate Proof of Creation more than once, I still find it difficult to train my mind to reject the foolish presuppositions of those with an evolutionary worldview. Perhaps it is because the decades of brainwashing by the the government funded public education system, the media, and the entertainment industry has almost re-programmed my brain to think as they do. Nonetheless, Romans 12 instructs, commands, and encourages us that renewal is possible.

    Anyway, I have no questions at this time – just a “thanks” for teaching us that it’s possible – and that we don’t need to be intimidated by arguments that are borrowing from the Christian Worldview from the outset!
    (Something new I learned yesterday: That the greek translation for “without excuse” is more akin to “without an apologetic”! That’s amazing, and invokes a deeper truth).

    Sincerely in Christ,
    ~ Jeff Scanga

  17. sanford sklansky says:

    Okay, so when the Bible says that you have to give 10% to the religious authorities, this totally applies to government and it is apostasy for any government not to comply with that command.

    [Dr. Lisle: You are very confused. God gives us life, breath, our physical body, our mind, our senses, and everything we have. He tells us to give 10% back to Him via His institution, the church, and this can be used to fund the church, to help the poor, and for missions. God has authorized the government really only to do one thing: to protect its citizens and restrain evil by punishing certain crimes (Romans 13:4). And the state may tax to fund this protection (Romans 13:6-7). But when the government (which is appointed to do only one thing) takes more in taxes than GOD (who gives us everything) takes in tithe, it is an indication that the government is out of control, and attempting to control things that God has not authorized.]

    But the Bible commands that we take care of the poor and needy dozens and dozens of times, more than it says almost anything else, yet the government that follows that command is also apostate.

    [Dr. Lisle: God has appointed different roles for the church and the state. The church is to care for the poor, and we as individuals should care for the poor. But God has not authorized the government to tax for the purpose of caring for the poor. And so if the government uses its power to take money from you for a purpose that God has not authorized, this amounts to theft – pure and simple. It would be no different than if I took all of your money and gave it to the poor. God has not authorized me to take from you for this purpose, and so it would be sinful (even though the poor may indeed be helped.)

    Just more evidence that people usually read the Bible to find ways to support their pre-existing beliefs, not as a source of those beliefs.

    [Dr. Lisle: Your comments show that people do indeed twist the Bible in such a way.]

    And there is enough contradiction in it that one can find anything they want in it as long as they’re willing to be intellectually dishonest.

    [Dr. Lisle: There is a double-irony in your claim. First, only by being intellectually dishonest will you claim to find contradictions in the Bible. Reading the text exegetically will find no such thing. Second, only if the Bible is true can we say that contradictions are logically wrong. This is because the law of non-contradiction stems from the self-consistent nature of God, and cannot be justified as a universal principle apart from the Christian worldview.]

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