The title of this post, makes me think of the 10 commandments found in Exodus 20:2-17. Surely these are implied in the commandments we are supposed to keep according to Jesus.
These commandments have a very specific nature and a new name, which will be discussed at a later point.
If you love me,
keep my commandments.
~ John 14:15
So, how do we show our love for Him?
I am afraid that we have been so indoctrinated with the belief that we are saved by faith through faith alone, to the exclusion of works having no part of our salvific faith.
This bias against some of scriptural instruction that supports works as part of our faith comes out of the Christian reformation.
Martin Luther was key in helping the church separate from the misuses of scripture that the religious powers of the day propagated. But Martin Luther tried to do some other things as well.
He wanted to remove the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the Bible. His personal view of salvation by faith alone caused disdain for parts of God’s word, forced him to ignore other parts, and attempt to discredit entire sections of the Bible.
Holding to a doctrine that makes one want to omit God’s word speaks volumes. Nowadays we usually just gloss over those verses, say they do not apply, or ignore their exegetical implications.
Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation elaborated many doctrinal principles found in the gospels and the rest of the epistles. As a result many who hold to a view similar to Luther’s use modern hermeneutic principles associated with their doctrine at the expense of exegesis.
I am by no means an expert or even seriously informed in these two disciplines. Neither will we go into the details of hermeneutics or exegesis here.
Let me just say that as we read scripture, we dare not exclude anything that has apparent contradictions with other scripture or complicates our personal doctrine.
That is exactly what Luther was doing when he proclaimed his doctrine of salvation by faith alone.
Everything in scripture is true and in complete agreement with every jot and tittle found in the Bible. That is the only way to interpret scripture although we may come to different conclusions.
My general rule is, that scripture must be interpreted literally and consistently with the whole counsel of scripture and can only be applied allegorically when a literal interpretation is not reasonable.
I like what George Allen Turner says about exegesis: “Theology should be the result of scientific exegesis rather than determining the exegesis.” (via predetermined doctrinal, hermeneutic principles)
What about Old Law?
The first question is, do we have to follow any of the old testament laws, holidays, or ordinances? I have been doing a lot of studying about Halloween, Christmas, and Easter; particularly their origins.
In this research, I came across Gentiles who follow the Torah and believe in Jesus. Their historical information about the Pagan origins of the above mentioned holidays are accurate but their teaching others to follow their instructions does not mesh with scripture.
To teach Gentiles that they are suppose to follow Torah, or Old Testament law in order to be obedient to Jesus’ commands falls into the same category condemned in scripture as quoted below.
We have already observed that Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. But what does this mean?
The early Christians were all Jewish and they religiously practiced O.T. principles such a dietary laws, fasting, feast days, Sabbaths, and sacrificial offerings.
There were basically no Gentiles or Gentile Christian practices in existence until 8 years after the church was born at Pentecost. This caused a problem when the Gentiles entered the church.
Then fourteen years
after I went up again to Jerusalem
with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
And I went up by revelation,
and communicated unto them that gospel
which I preach among the Gentiles,
but privately to them which were of reputation,
lest by any means I should run,
or had run, in vain.
But neither Titus, who was with me,
being a Greek,
was compelled to be circumcised:
~ Galatians 2:1-3
This incident shows that the spiritual Jewish believers did not try to make Gentiles follow their laws. Both Barnabas and Titus were accepted as proper and genuine disciples of Christ.
Circumcision was clearly not a requirement. To teach gentiles to do so was severely rebuked.
And certain men which came down from Judaea
taught the brethren, and said,
Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses,
ye cannot be saved.
~ Acts 15:1
Forasmuch as we have heard,
that certain which went out from us
have troubled you with words,
subverting your souls, saying,
Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law:
to whom we gave no such commandment:
~ Acts 15:24
Brothers and sisters,
if I am still preaching circumcision,
why am I still being persecuted?
In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.
~ Galatians 5:11
As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh,
they constrain you to be circumcised;
only lest they should suffer persecution
for the cross of Christ.
~ Galatians 6:12
The Jews had not yet begun to be persecuted. They remained privileged in the Roman empire. The Christians on the other hand were being persecuted severely (mostly by the Jews) and some were beginning to follow Jewish ways in order to avoid persecution.
We Christians are called to be persecuted. This should be expected and received with joy.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus
shall suffer persecution.
2 Timothy 3:12
Yet if any man suffer as a Christian,
let him not be ashamed;
but let him glorify God on this behalf.
~ 1 Peter 4:16
If we are not to compromise our faith by accepting traditions or practices of the Jews, is it okay to practice them?
I suppose if a Gentile wanted to practice Jewish ways, they could but I don’t think it is profitable or wise to try to associate oneself with Judaism in the context of a proselyte.
That being said, the law and Jewish practices are invaluable in their intended purpose to point us to Christ but fail completely when used as a part of saving faith.
But before faith came,
we were kept under the law,
shut up unto the faith
which should afterwards be revealed.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster
to bring us unto Christ,
that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come,
we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ
have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither bond nor free,
there is neither male nor female:
for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ’s,
then are ye Abraham’s seed,
and heirs according to the promise.
~ Galatians 3:23-29
What does scripture say about the Law here? That it was a tutor, a school master leading us to Christ. The whole O.T. did this. That is why it is so important to study and know its significance.
I personally think Christians could benefit greatly by learning about and experiencing all of the Jewish feast holidays.
They teach of Christ, and are derived from biblical truths rather than the mixing of pagan elements found in Christian holidays.
There are some O.T. commandments that we are commanded to follow. And if we love Jesus, that is exactly what we will do.
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost,
and to us,
to lay upon you no greater burden
than these necessary things;
that ye abstain from meats offered to idols,
and from blood, and from things strangled,
and from fornication:
from which if ye keep yourselves,
ye shall do well.
Fare ye well.
~ Acts 15:28-30
if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.
Acts 15:28 indicates that the Apostles were in agreement and obeying the Holy Spirit. These were the original leaders of the Church. Paul and the Gentile leadership submitted to their authority.
We would be wise to do the same.
if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.
These O.T. commands are layering upon the words of Jesus found in John 14:15.
If we do not keep ourselves, we shall not do well, we will be disobedient to the Holy Spirit’s instructions and choosing to sin against God. We are commanded to abstain from the things listed above in the N.T.
That is why Christianity should separate its practices from those of the world. For the world cannot keep from disobeying God. It is built upon the foundation of sin.
abstain from meats offered to idols
At the surface, this seems pretty clear but Paul add some clarity to the subject.
But meat commendeth us not to God:
for neither, if we eat, are we the better;
neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
But take heed lest by any means
this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock
to them that are weak.
For if any man see thee which hast knowledge
sit at meat in the idol’s temple,
shall not the conscience of him which is weak
be emboldened to eat those things
which are offered to idols;
and through thy knowledge
shall the weak brother perish,
for whom Christ died?
But when ye sin so against the brethren,
and wound their weak conscience,
ye sin against Christ.
Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend,
I will eat no flesh while the world standeth,
lest I make my brother to offend.
~ 1 Corinthians 8:8-13
Here Paul explains the ordinance of abstaining from meat offered to idols. He gives five criteria. Mind you, there is no contradiction between the to sets of instructions from Acts and Corinthians.
- Outside its effect on others, the type of food we eat plays no role in our relation to God; to abstain does no harm, to partake gives no advantage.
- Even though we have liberty to eat anything, we should not eat or do anything that would cause a weaker brethren to sin.
If through our knowledge we eat, and cause a weaker brother’s conscience to be emboldened to sin, and he goes to hell as a result, his blood is on our hands.
When we do this, we sin against our brethren, wound them, and are sinning against Christ.
If food offered to idols make a brother sin, we should abstain from ever eating it again if it makes a brother to sin.
I would add that this principle should be considered whenever we think, say, or do anything. We do not want to cause another to be emboldened in their conscience to sin against God.
These scriptures use the word brethren indicating a fellow Christian. Think about this, a non-believer today could be a believer tomorrow. So, we really need to be careful with everyone if we are to love our neighbor as our self.
Jesus gives us an even stronger warning against the principle of sinning against God by causing others to fall into stumble because of our actions.
But whoso shall offend
one of these little ones which believe in me,
it were better for him that a millstone
were hanged about his neck,
and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe unto the world because of offences! f
or it must needs be that offences come;
but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
~ Matthew 18:6-7
and from blood, and from things strangled,
From blood and things strangled are both related to the consuming of blood and predate the Mosaic law. This prohibition comes from the covenant God made with Noah after the flood.
But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood
~ Genesis 9:4
With this command, we see that the life of the animal is in the blood. According to God, consuming blood is akin to eating an animal alive. The sanctity of life is why this is prohibited.
We are not to consume any type of blood. This command is repeated in Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and 3 times in Acts. It is commanded through all three dispensations, Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian.
Therefore I said to the children of Israel,
You shall not eat the blood of any flesh,
for the life of all flesh is its blood.
Whoever eats it shall be cut off.
Only you shall not eat the blood;
you shall pour it on the earth like water.
~ Deuteronomy 12:16
From a practical viewpoint, there are clearly some foods that are forbidden: blood sausage, blood pudding, drinking of blood, or dishes containing significant quantities of blood.
In 1 Corinthians 10:25, Paul says,
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles,
that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:
for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:25
Paul does not mean to purchase blood stained products such as strangled meat. Meat not drained of blood has a distinct and recognizable color and texture.
I know this because I have slaughtered many types of animals and have found parts containing blood that did not drain. This meat also has a distinct taste and cooks differently when saturated with blood.
It is also safe to assume that Paul did not mean to eat rotten meat, or organs containing fecal matter or stomach contents either. His instruction are reasonable and in accordance with the whole counsel of scripture on this subject.
The context appears to apply to purchasing food or eating food provided by others.
According to the FDA, meats sold in America are all drained of blood.
and from fornication:
This instruction is to abstain from sexual immorality. The New Testament provides so much instruction on this subject. Here are three samples. This command also predates mosaic law.
Rampant sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah was one of the reasons they were destroyed in Genesis. God also spoke of it before the flood when the Sons of God took wived of daughters of men.
I wrote unto you in an epistle
not to company with fornicators:
yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world,
or with the covetous, or extortioners,
or with idolaters;
for then must ye needs go out of the world.
But now I have written unto you
not to keep company,
if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator,
or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer,
or a drunkard, or an extortioner;
with such an one no not to eat.
~ 1 Corinthians 5:9-11
Marriage is honourable in all,
and the bed undefiled:
but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
~ Hebrews 13:4
But the fearful, and unbelieving,
and the abominable, and murderers,
and whoremongers, and sorcerers,
and idolaters, and all liars,
shall have their part in the lake
which burneth with fire and brimstone:
which is the second death.
~ Revelation 21:8
There has never been a time when sexual immorality was not considered an exclusionary sin (a sin that causes one to perish). Sexual immorality has always been a part of Gentile or heathen cultures.
We are not to tolerate fornication in in this life. God will not tolerate those who practice it in the next. We are not to have close friends or spend time socializing who fornicators who claim to be Christians.
At the same time we are to love those lost in sin and be light to a dark and dying world.
I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
but shewed first unto them of Damascus,
and at Jerusalem,
and throughout all the coasts of Judæa,
and then to the Gentiles,
that they should repent and turn to God,
and do works meet for repentance.
~ Acts 26:19-20
We too must not be disobedient to our heavenly calling in Christ and obey His commandments in love. We now understand what carries over from the O.T. and why they are important.
We will discuss further what it means to love Jesus and keep His commandments in the next post.
And the Lord God formed man
of the dust of the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living soul.
And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden;
and there he put the man whom he had formed.
~ Genesis 2:7-8