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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fractured Word: Part I

Ask anyone who believes we no longer follow the law if it is OK to commit adultery and murder, and they will look at you as if you have 2 heads. After the stunned silence, you will likely hear one of two explanations as to why we follow some of the law and not all of it- either that Yeshua reiterated the commandments that still apply, or that we are now only bound to follow the spiritual or moral laws. The problem with this argument, though, is that we are still being bound to a law, so their verses that say the law is abolished must either be inaccurate or completely off. If we are free from the law, we should not have to follow any part of it, right? I can’t find the verse that says we only follow the commandments that are repeated in the New Testament, but if someone else can, please explain to me then why Yeshua, Paul, Matthew, and the others constantly quoted from the Law and the Prophets? People asked what they should do or how they were to act, and they were referred to the Torah every time.

Take a look at a list of the 613 Mitzvah, or laws. I have to point out here that this is not a strictly scriptural list because it follows rabbinical interpretations, like no mixing meat and dairy, when the scriptures clearly teach against such a separation in Genesis 18:8. Still, it’s easier than going through and writing them all down yourself! Go through the list and see if you can pick out which ones are sticking issues with the church today.

First, we eliminate the ones where we offered sacrifice for sin as Yeshua was himself the once-for-all sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:12). That is clear-cut and any believer in the Messiah can agree on that. But the easy part of it ends there.

Next we have to consider the sanctification procedures and temple instructions. There is debate about whether these are still in place, but the argument isn’t really important right now because we do not have a temple. Whether or not we should still offer incense or offerings, present ourselves in Yah’s house on Holy days, or make a vow (all of which Paul did and advocated in Acts), we cannot do any of them because we do not have a temple to do them in. These things were commanded to be done a certain way and time or not at all. It wasn’t a sin not to do them in itself, as David’s absence from Saul’s table when the new moon came demonstrates (Saul assumed he was unclean for whatever reason). There were times in the history of the Chosen People that they were either without a temple altogether, or were in captivity and could not get to the temple.

We have also specifically eliminated the need for circumcision, though many a Christian still does it with their sons for various reasons. The New Testament said it was not necessary as a sign of being grafted in, and that doing for the express purpose of trying to earn salvation through the law was blasphemous, but we are never told we are not permitted. In fact, Paul took Timothy and had him circumcised. So while we are not commanded to be physically circumcised, we are commanded to be spiritually circumcised, so this law has not been done away with but rather fulfilled through Yeshua.

There are several sections in the list of Mitzvah that reference how we should act toward others. Most of these are not specifically reiterated by Yeshua, but he speaks to the essence of them by saying that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we love our neighbors, we would not think of doing any one of these things to them, and we know that breaking any of these would be a sin. The same is true of the list of forbidden sexual practices. Yeshua did not go through this list, either, but we all know that each of them is a sin.

The agricultural commands are adopted by smart farmers today, once again proving the truth of the Bible's words even before people understood the reasons behind them. It makes sense not to cut down a tree that is bearing fruit, and I cannot think of an instance of anyone ever doing such a thing. In fact, when you purchase a home, having fruit bearing plants is a selling point. We have also learned that land needs to be allowed to lay fallow in order to keep it form being depleted. Usually the plot to be given a ‘Sabbath’ rest is turned over to pasture, which fertilizes it and allows the topsoil to settle and prevent erosion. We do not leave the gleanings for the poor since trespassing laws make it unappealing for them to come gather them, but we give them to shelters and groups who feed the poor. And the idea of working on shares comes right from Deuteronomy.

Lastly, when it comes to our appearances, conservative believers (and I don’t believe there can be any other kind, even just using the OT) still adhere to these commands. Women and men do not cross-dress in church meetings, piercings are seen as a distraction to our living visible witness, and even in ‘freedom in Christ’ churches tattoos are preached as taboo.

Really, when it comes down to it, there are very few of the ‘old laws’ that Christians do not follow today. Specifically, they include not eating unclean foods, observing a Saturday Sabbath, and dressing specifically in a way that identifies us as believers.

Why these? If some of the Word still applies and some does not, isn't the Word itself broken?

continued in Part II

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