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On Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, Sabbaths and the Glory of Christ — by Pastor Tedd

 

Logo_PastorTeddBlog2Several years ago, our family traveled to Europe and discovered that Germany and France had some laws that while similar, were different than those of the United States. Don’t worry, your pastor kept his nose clean and didn’t end up in a French pokey.

Just like law codes differing between countries, in the Bible there are distinct law codes for different times & people. Not recognizing those distinctives can make the Bible quite confusing. And unbelievers can accuse of us cherry picking what’s sin and what isn’t because they (or we) fail to recognize the distinctions. But more importantly, intentional blending or ignoring the differences can be to our eternal damnation (Rom. 10:1-4; books of Galatians, Hebrews).

Below is my attempt to lay some ground work for understanding the distinctions between the law codes in the Bible. Our studies in the Gospel of Mark have prompted me to refresh my understanding on this subject, and then a recent essay by Clint Archer, a Baptist pastor in South Africa, has encouraged me. You’ll see I quote him; I also have followed his line of reasoning.

Different Codes for Different Folks
In the Bible we see God had specific rules or laws He gave at different times. Example: Noah didn’t have to circumcise his sons, but several hundred years later God did command Abraham and his descendants to do so. Here’s another: Circumcised Abraham could eat bacon-wrapped shrimp, but 400 years later when the Law came to Moses (a descendant of Abraham and hence circumcised), he and Abraham’s descendants would have sinned to do such a thing; pork and shell fish were declared by God as being unclean (Lev. 11). Archer helps us think this through with the following:
To violate the law code that is currently in effect is to commit a sin. But it is not sin to violate a law in a previous (or future) law code… Each new law code replaces the past one completely.

Because God rules according to His own holiness, there will always be some similarities in each code and some desires and actions on the part of humans will always be sin in every era. Example: Long before the 10 commandments were given, Joseph knew it would be sin to fornicate with Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39).

Do Christians Have A Law Code?
Since the time of Christ something major has changed with God’s law code. God’s people can eat pork; we can mow our lawns on Saturday (the Sabbath). But we can’t offer animal sacrifices and we don’t insist on circumcision. We can now wear clothing made from different fabrics. Yet from the same Law of Moses that banned mixing cloth types and commanded circumcision, there were laws regarding moral behavior that we still hold as applicable. Adultery remains adultery, stealing and lying and coveting remain on the books as sin.

We get some help in understanding what’s changed when we read that Christ came to fulfill the Law (Matt 5:17; Rom. 10:4). ‘Fulfilled’ means to complete or accomplish. The Apostle Paul says Christ is the end of the law. In Galatians and Hebrews readers are warned about going back under the Law of Moses. Why? Because it’s been accomplished or ‘completed’ by Christ. But if that’s true, why do we see in the New Testament so many admonitions and warnings. Just what does it mean that Christ fulfilled the Law? Here’s Archer to help us:
{M}any Christians deal with this… by saying the Law of Moses can be divided into 3 parts: moral, ceremonial, and civil. {And} Christ fulfilled the ceremonial parts (sacrifices, feasts, dietary laws) and he fulfilled the civil parts (tithing, stoning your kids, eye for an eye). But… the moral parts (like murder, adultery, homosexuality) are still binding.

 You can see why this solution is so handy. It explains neatly why we can’t murder, but can eat bacon. That’s a helpful division to have. The problem is that…

  1. The Bible doesn’t make that distinction at all; it mixes all the laws indiscriminately. They were all binding on Israel and considered to be sin if violated. So we end up deciding arbitrarily which category tattoos, Sabbath, and tithing fall into.
  1. If we say that the moral law is still binding then that leaves a part of the Law unfulfilled by Christ’s death on the cross. But the New Testament explicitly says Jesus fulfilled the whole Law. See Galatians 3:23

So are Christians under a law code? Yes, we’re under the law of Christ, or, the law of love. See I Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2 (See also Mark 12:31, 32).

Are there similarities to the Law of Moses? Yes, in fact nine out of the 10 commandments remain in effect under the law of Christ (only observing the Sabbath isn’t repeated). It is the same holy character of God revealed in the life of our Lord that is the source of these laws. But there is a critical difference between the Law of Moses and the law of Christ. Under the Law of Moses, the priest and the sacrifices were shadows of what was to come in the person and work of Christ (Heb. 10:1). Therefore, those under the Law weren’t expected to glory in, or worship, the animal sacrifice or in the priest (as a sinner, the priest required sacrifices for himself). But we do glory in Christ as our atoning sacrifice and our high priest (I Cor. 16:22; Gal. 6:14; Phil. 2:1-11; Heb. 5-10; I Pet 1:17-21)!

Our obedience to God now flows out of our faith in Christ, and it’s quite personal. It was our breaking of God’s law – our lawless nature and desires and actions (Rom. 3:23; I John 3:4) that Christ died for – He is our sacrifice. We know that what Christ did fully appeased God because He raised Jesus from the dead. Therefore, we put all our confidence in God forgiving us in Christ; we trust in Him alone! Further, there has been a change within us that causes us to see the glory of Christ Jesus (II Cor. 4:1-6) – the glory of His His person. He alone is truly God and truly man at the same time, and He is utterly pure and undefiled. Because of His perfect obedience to His Father to the point of death on a cross, God has rewarded Him by giving Him all authority in heaven and on earth. So we worship Him. Believers in Christ are not merely keepers of a list, rather, we love the One who died for us and gave Himself up for us! And we bow in reverence to His authority, obeying and serving Him as the rightful Lord and King He is (John 14:15; Phil. 2:10,11).

As I said above, this is some ground work for us. Praying we will continue to make much of Christ – as a church and as individuals. “That He might have first place in everything” – Col. 1:18

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