What’s up with the all the crazy talk? (Eleven things I now believe)

According to Reformed standards, I’ve officially gone mad.

With all of this talk of loving the law and keeping feast days and all of the other weird stuff on this blog lately, I know I’ve alienated some of you.

You may be totally bewildered and at a complete loss for words, or you may be totally opposed to everything you’ve read and are unwilling to engage in a conversation because you’re convinced I’m beyond hope. Or maybe you’re just curious about exactly what I believe now.

What You May Be Thinking

I have a guess as to what you may be thinking because I used to think the same things when I heard others talk like I’m now talking.

You might think I’m placing myself under a yoke of slavery. You might be worried that I’m trying to be justified by works of the law. You might fear that in my foolishness, after starting with the Spirit, I am trying to be perfected by the flesh. You may believe that I have placed myself under a curse by relying on works of the law.

I’m hoping that by sharing the understanding I have now, it’ll assure you that none of those things are true.

What This Shift in Understanding Has Done for Me

In the following list of eleven beliefs I now hold, you’ll notice that some things fit exactly in line with what any good-reformed-minded-person thinks, while others don’t quite.  The things that don’t quite fit that reformed mindset are the pieces to the puzzle that were missing for me for so long.  Having them in place has blown open the word to me in these last several months.

And I mean blown open.  I have been reading like crazy, and what’s greater, I’ve been understanding what I’m reading in a way I never have before.

I’m guessing at least some of you know what I mean.  You read through Isaiah or Deuteronomy or Zephaniah because it’s part of your Bible reading plan.  You find some cool verses here and there.  But ultimately, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to your life. There’s not much connecting those books to the vital “meat” of the New Testament.

That’s how it was for me, anyway.  There was a disconnect between the Old Testament and the New that always left me uneasy.  But I praise my God and Savior that it is not that way anymore!

So, without further ado, here’s how I see things now.

Eleven Things I Now Believe

This is not an exhaustive list of beliefs, but it covers the biggies and will hopefully answer a lot of questions.

1) The Savior was the word made flesh.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

This is perhaps one of the most critical clarifications that I have come to see in the scriptures: The written law and our Savior were not two separate things.  Our Savior is the written word in the flesh.

He lived a sinless life, walking out the law of God perfectly, both in letter and in spirit. He taught and displayed the law in its fullness, as it was always intended to be.  He stripped away the fences that man had erected to “protect” the law, which actually hindered people from properly understanding it.  He dismantled the traditions that had overturned the law. He even went so far as to commend those who would teach the law without relaxing even the least of its commandments (Matthew 5:17-19).

Because the law reveals God’s very nature so that by knowing the law we know Him (Jer 9:3, 5-6, 13-14), our Savior, who embodied the law in perfection, was the visible manifestation of the invisible God (Col 1:15).

2) We are saved freely by grace through faith.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2:8)

After He restored the law to its proper state and demonstrated perfect obedience to it, He then bore the penalty we deserved for abandoning and spurning it.  The sinless Messiah took the punishment we deserve for our disobedience to God’s instructions. Because of His atoning death, we can be fully reconciled with our Father (Is 53, John 1:29). We cannot do any works that will compel God to save us (Rom 3:20). Our faith in the Savior’s atoning death and resurrection three days later is what reconciles us to the Father. But the story doesn’t end here…

3) Being reconciled to the Father means being grafted into the olive tree of Israel, God’s chosen people.

“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph 2:12-13)

This is one of the other main clarifications I’ve come to see: If we remain separate from Israel, we remain strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God.  But praise Him that we are no longer stranger and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God! Citizenship is granted to us through the blood of Christ (Eph 2:12-13, 19). We, who were once not a people (Hosea 1:8-10, 2 Peter 2:10), are grafted into His people Israel (Romans 11).

Genetic connection to Israel doesn’t equate to citizenship in Israel (Matthew 3:9), nor does lack of genetic connection prevent citizenship (Ruth). Citizenship in Israel is open to all.

4) Citizens of Israel show their fear and love for God by following His everlasting teaching and instructions.

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deut 10:12-13)

The instruction was given to all 12 tribes of Israel and the mixed multitude who joined themselves with Israel (Ex 12:37-38). It was not given just to the tribe of Judah, otherwise known as the Jews. The law was always (“forever throughout your generations”) meant for both the native and the foreigners (Num 15:15).

Once I understood that my Savior was the written word made flesh and that I was part of Israel – the body of people to whom the written words were given and to whom the Savior was sent – those written words took on a much more critical importance for me.

5) The instructions, originally written down by Moses, were not an impossible standard set by God simply to show His people how wickedly deficient they were.

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” (Deut 30:11-14)

This was one of the other major game-changers for me.  I remember coming across this verse in my reading one day and being completely shocked.  I had always believed, and been taught, that the law’s purpose was to show us that striving after it would avail us nothing – that God’s standards were impossibly high.  But this verse tells a completely different story. From God’s own mouth we hear that the law is not too hard or far-off.  It is close and it can be done.

6) The instructions were a manifestation of God’s merciful kindness for creating a set-apart people who benefited from the Creator’s magnificent wisdom and who would serve as a light to all nations.

“See ,I have taught you statues and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statues, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statues and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today.” (Deut 4:5-8)

Among other things, God’s instructions were given to them for their good (Deut. 6:24), to provide them with wisdom (Deut 4:6-8) and to prolong their days (Deut 4:40).

7) These instructions were never intended for salvation, but were given to an already-redeemed people to show them how already-redeemed people should live.

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.” (Deut 15:15)

Passover (the day Israel was redeemed by the blood of the lamb – Ex 12) preceded Pentecost (the day God spoke His instructions to Israel – Ex 19-20).   God had already rescued His people from death before He spoke the Torah to them.

We should obey those instructions not because we are constrained or fearful, but because we delight in the law-giver and treasure His grace and wisdom (Psalm 119). We should position ourselves as already loved children who obey our Father, not because we want to win His affections but because we are overwhelmed with His affection.  Our obedience doesn’t secure our salvation, it demonstrates it (James 2:14-26).

Those who use the law as a means to be saved (or justified) before God show that they do not understand its true purpose. They are severed from the Word and thereby severed from the Word made flesh (Gal 5:4).

(Many of you might find this similar reformed perspective very interesting.)

8) With the New Covenant gift of the Holy Spirit, the law of God gets written on our hearts.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:31-33)

This was yet another clarification that made a big difference in my understanding: The spirit and the law work together, not separately.

The giving of the Holy Spirit, which writes God’s instructions on our heart, doesn’t mean that we can now disregard the words of the law.  To the contrary, we uphold the law (Rom 3:31). The Spirit causes us to walk in the Father’s statutes and to carefully observe His ordinances (Ezek 36:27). The Spirit enables us to follow the Savior and to walk as He walked (John 8:12, Col 2:6). Again, this walking is not what saves us. It simply evidences our faith, trust, and love (James 2:14-26).

Interestingly, the New Covenant was promised to only the House of Israel (northern 10 tribes) and the House of Judah (southern 2 tribes). This again shows us how important citizenship in Israel is.

9) Salvation sets us free from sin.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Rom 6:22)

We are free from sin in two ways:

As we talked about earlier, when Christ died our death we were freed from the law of sin and death. We no longer owe the penalty of sin, which is death (Rom 8:1-2).

We are also now free from lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  We are no longer slaves to breaking the law.  Now we are slaves to righteousness. We are obedient from the heart to the law of God (Rom 6:16-18).

10) No one person or group has arrived in perfection.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:12-14)

All true children are still growing, learning, and being corrected in various ways. The Father doesn’t write the instructions in our hearts all at once, just as the Savior didn’t reveal all things to His disciples all at once. He said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). We serve a merciful, patient God who leads us gently into a deeper, more intimate knowledge of Him and His ways. He works with us over our lifetimes to conform us to the image of His son (Rom 8:29) and promises to bring us to completion (Phil 1:6). Praise Him!

The Father has children in many different places and in many different stages of understanding (Phil 3:15-16). This is why we must walk in a manner worthy of our calling and bear with one another with humility, patience, love, and unity (Eph 4:1-3).

11) The Bible is the tool that provides our ongoing teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16)

It’s interesting to note that the only scriptures that existed when Paul penned these words to Timothy were the Old Testament ones. We need to hear and appreciate what Paul is saying: The Old Testament scriptures – the law, prophets, and the writings – were breathed out by God.  They are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I believe that the New Testament is also part of the total revelation God intended for His children.  The Bible, including both Old and New Testaments, is the ultimate authority in a believer’s life.  In its original form, they are the inspired word of God (1 Thes 2:13, 2 Peter1:21). Because thousands of years, at least one language, and an entire cultural chasm separate us from the original text, we have to work diligently to be sure that we properly understand the original words and meaning.

I think that the writings of Paul have been particularly susceptible to misinterpretation because of this distance of time, language, and culture. Peter warned people in his own day, who spoke the same language and lived in the same culture to handle Paul’s writings carefully lest they fall into lawlessness (2 Peter 3:15-17). If they ran the risk of misunderstanding Paul, how much more do we?

(If Paul is of particular interest to you, you may like these posts: Paul’s (Dueling?) Perspective on the Law, or Reconciling Paul – Laying the Foundations)

Did that answer questions or just bring up new ones?

Aaand that sums up some of the biggies of this new way of thinking.

I realize that while this may have answered some questions it probably brought up many more. As always, I invite your questions, challenges,  and perspective.  I have not arrived in perfection or to a fullness of knowledge.  I’m just trying to be faithful to test everything to the word and to stand firm in truth.

Like I said in another post, as the Spirit  saturates my mind and heart with more truth, my understanding of the Word is constantly being tweaked and clarified.  The Father uses others to help do this tweaking and clarifying work.  So please, offer insights, ask questions, or share concerns if you have them. I am blessed by all who walk alongside me to sharpen, challenge, and encourage me.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Hey Erika, thanks for your post. The first thing that I would mention is that you clearly made an error in only having 11 “things [you] now believe”. Don’t you know that 12 is a more Holy number? 😀 Anyway, the main question I have is in regard to #5 “What do you mean by Law?” Do you mean the 10 commandments? Do you mean those things that are summed up in “loving the Lord God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and loving your neighbor as yourself”, or are you referring to the dietary laws, keeping the literal Saturday Sabbath, all of the feasts and a host of other things?” In the latter case, I would have to disagree with you. For one thing, the Gentile believers were never required to keep these things, as we see in the book of Acts.
    “As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” Acts 21:24-26

    And later, to the Collosians, Paul states, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a SHADOW of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. ” Collosians 2:16-17 Notice that Sabbath is capitalized here, implying that he is referring to the actual, Yaweh appointed Sabbath day. That whole chapter is really good, talking about our spiritual fullness in Christ.

    You know that I love to celebrate the Passover. I see it as a teaching tool for my children (which it was intended to be); but I also believe that now that Yeshua has become my Passover lamb, I am celebrating it the way it was always intended to be celebrated. When I take the Lord’s supper, even out of the context of a seder meal, I am in fact “celebrating the Lord’s death until he comes” and doing it “in remembrance” of Him. I Corinthians 11:24-26 I am not saying, “Blessed be the name of the Lord who brought me out of the land of Egypt, but rather “Blessed be the name of the Lord who brought me out of bondage to sin.” So, I believe that I am fulfilling the commandment to celebrate the Passover, because I am celebrating Yeshua and His work in my life every day.

    That is all I’ll comment on today, but I have some other thoughts.

    Reply

    • Posted by Erika on July 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks for sharing some thoughts, Heather!

      Yes, I did recognize the “error” of posting eleven thoughts instead of seven or twelve. I intended to round it out to some “holier” number; it just didn’t work out. 😛

      When I say “law” I mean all of it – the 10 commandments, the dietary instructions, the whole deal. The 10 commandments were merely the first things spoken by Yahweh at Mt. Sinai. He would have continued speaking if the people had not interrupted Him and asked Moses to be their intermediary to receive the rest of the instructions on their behalf.

      In fact, a great teacher recently pointed out that the book of Deuteronomy (where Moses reviews the instructions of Yahweh before sending the children of Israel into the Promised Land) is laid out to show how the rest of the commandments connect back to those ten, which act kind of like bullet points or summary statements for the rest of the laws. The fleshed out sections are even given in the same order as the 10 commandments with exception of the 9th commandment. I have a whole other post on that. I’ll be sure to get it up soon.

      The ideas of loving the LORD with all of our hearts and souls and loving our neighbor as ourselves are further reductions of the 10 commandments. The first 4 commandments deal with how to love the LORD and the last 6 deal with how to love our neighbors. Those ideas didn’t originate in the New Testament. They were part of the commandments of the Old Testament. Love the LORD (Deut 6:5). Love your neighbor (Lev 19:18).

      As for the Gentile believers not having to keep anything, I am going to paste something I wrote in another post:

      From the beginning, once Gentiles chose to follow the God of Israel, they became Israelites and members of the covenant, which included obedience to His instructions. There was never a law for the native and a separate one for the foreigner.

      “There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (Exodus 12:49)

      “You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 24:22)

      “For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.” (Numbers 15:15)

      But what about Acts 15? Didn’t the Jerusalem council unequivocally decide that Gentiles weren’t constrained to follow the law of Moses?

      Some believing Jews argued that Gentiles couldn’t be saved unless they first kept the law of Moses, including circumcision. But Peter, Barnabas, and Paul recounted the miracles done among the Gentiles and argued that God had seen their believing hearts and had already granted them salvation because of their faith.

      Not even the Jews were required to walk obediently in order to earn salvation. God had redeemed and freed His people before He instructed them in how they should walk. Requiring obedience in order to earn salvation is a yoke no one has ever been able (or even asked) to bear.

      The problem was that the newly saved Gentiles engaged in a highly idolatrous lifestyle. In order for these new converts to rightly worship God, they needed to first be willing to abandon their idolatrous activities of temple prostitution, strangling idol offerings, consuming blood of offerings, etc. The first things on God’s Top 10 list deal with worship of God alone, so it’s no wonder why the first commandments given to the new converts were ones to prove their single-heartedness towards the only true God.

      In fact, instead of the law being done away for former Gentiles, they are actually being pointed right to it! This list of first commandments for the new converts is a perfect summary of the commandments given in Leviticus 17-18. They are even listed in the same order!

      No one expected this list to be all the former Gentiles ever did in obedience to God. Their obedience was expected to continue to grow. Verse 21 contains an enlightening glimpse into the head of James who was making the recommendation:

      “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” (Acts 15:21)

      The new converts would come to the synagogues every Sabbath and would hear the law being read, as written down by Moses (just as our Savior commanded in Matthew 23:2-3, by the way). The assumption seems to be that as they heard it, they would be conformed to it. This group of people didn’t grow up under the instruction of the Lord. They would need time to “grow” up into it just as the Jewish children did.

      Finally, I think your last objections about the fullness of the Sabbath and feast days being found in Christ show a bit of a Greek mindset. Let me explain:

      Greek mindset says: God isn’t really concerned with the mundane issues of clothing, food, etc of the Torah. We can disregard these literal, physical commands because He was really getting at deeper spiritual issues.

      Hebrew mindset says: God IS really concerned with the mundane issues of our lives. He has always been after a physically AND spiritually set-apart people. It’s not an either/or situation.

      So, yes, every time we eat bread or drink juice/wine we remember and celebrate Yeshua’s death on our behalf. And, yes, we celebrate a spiritual freedom from a spiritual slavery. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are commanded to celebrate an actual day that reflected our ancestors’ actual release from a physical slavery as well as the actual day that our Savior died to procure our freedom from death.

      Thoughts on these thoughts? 🙂

      I look forward to continuing the conversation whenever you’re ready!

      Reply

  2. It really surprises me that you would advocated a keeping of the whole law as written in the Pentateuch as you obviously don’t adhere to daily or festival sacrifices. You would agree that Christ has been sacrificed “once for all”. You also do not celebrate the feasts in Jerusalem, where they were commanded to be celebrated. Y’shua told the Samaritan woman that there was a time coming when worshippers would no longer worship the Father in Jerusalem, but “true worshippers would worship in Spirit and in truth”. You believe this, right? If these former things are no longer relevant because they were shadows or had their fulfillment in Christ, why can we not say that about other parts of the law? You are concerned about “lawlessness”, but Scripture tells us that we are under a new law, “the law of the Spirit of life”, the “law of Love”. This law is more compelling and yet “easy” by comparison, because it is enabled by the Spirit. And the fruits are these, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control”. Also, I don’t think we can discount Paul’s teachings by saying they are “difficult”. Peter, says that Paul’s writings are “scripture” and we know that “all scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.” I don’t feel it is necessary to point out everything in Paul’s writings, but his purpose is clear. In speaking to the churches (in Galatia for instance), these were not new converts; and yet he tells them to go back to the way they were at first. In speaking of circumcision he pleads with them not to be. He is thankful that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised. He says that “neither circumcision or uncircumcision are anything”. To a Jew, this was the seal of their sonship and commanded under the law for anyone that would wish to become part of the assembly; but Paul says that now the Spirit is the “seal” of our adoption by which we can cry “Abba!”

    The other day you said you agreed that “the law was our guardian”, but now that we are true sons and no longer slaves, we are not under a guardian; but are in fact compelled by our own conscience (there is scripture to back this up) and free to love God and love our neighbor. “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:14

    The whole book of Galatians is an attempt to rescue the Gospel which has been marred by a group of people who want this church to return to law-keeping: Faith and circumcision, faith and feast days, faith and (whatever you want to insert). You can sense Paul’s grief and pleading as you read it. He refers to the law as the “worthless elementary principals of the world who’s slaves you want to be once more. You observe days and months and seasons and years. I’m afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” Galatians 4:9-11 In context, he is clearly talking about law-keeping and not a return to idolatry or immorality.

    One thing I read recently I think help bring clarity to the misunderstanding regarding the law. This was a paper entitled “Does Zechariah 14:16-21 Command Christians to Keep Festivals”. It’s a very good paper, and I can send you a copy, but there was one statement that I especially liked: where the Old testament points to new covenant realities by using old covenant language and scenarios, “the New Testament interprets old covenant physical realities in terms of new covenant spiritual ones”. This is what we see happening in Y’shua’s conversation with the Samaritan woman, when scripture talks about a circumcision of heart rather than the foreskin, that we are the temple that God’s Spirit dwells in rather than the literal one that was in Jerusalem, and my favorite, “the Word became flesh and ‘tabernacled’ among us”, etc.

    I spent much of my time reading and studying the law when I was in college. I was a regular participant in activites at Hillel (the Jewish student center). I don’t regret the time I spent studying and participating in the feasts and reading the law and the prophets, because it enriched my understanding of new testament realities; but now I find it helpful to go to the men, who received direct revelation from Christ to help me to interpret Old Testament truths. You have to look at it from both ends. 😀

    Reply

    • Posted by Erika on August 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      Hey Heather,

      Let me start addressing your questions/statements at the beginning. 🙂

      You are right that I don’t adhere to daily or festival sacrifices. First of all, let me say that this is an issue I still haven’t come to fully understand. Yes, Christ was sacrificed once for all. Yet, Paul and others continued to offer sacrifices even after Messiah’s death and resurrection. (Paul presented an offering for himself and the other four men who were likely under a Nazarite vow in Acts 21 as one example.) Were they doing it irreverently or were they doing it as a memorial of what he had done? OR did Yeshua’s death cover the Passover/Day of Atonement sacrifices only? There were so many sacrifices – freewill, peace, etc. Again, I haven’t come to fully understand this yet. Thankfully, since there is no temple in existence, there COULDN’T be any legitimate sacrifices offered, so its not imperative that I get this figured out asap. 😉

      You are also right that I do not celebrate the feasts in Jerusalem, where they were commanded to be celebrated. We have been scattered to the “ends of the earth” and a trip to Jerusalem 3 times a year is not able to happen for our family now. So, we are not keeping the feast as much as we are rehearsing and remembering the feasts.

      As for your statement that Yeshua told the Samaritan woman that there was a time coming when worshipers would no longer worship the Father in Jerusalem, I disagree. In John 4, Yeshua says to the woman that SHE will neither worship on the mountain or in Jerusalem, but he doesn’t make a blanket statement for all believers. To the contrary, Jerusalem is prophesied to be the place from which our Messiah will reign when He returns. Isaiah 2:3 says, “many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”

      You said that Scripture tells us that we are under a new law, “the law of the Spirit of life”, the “law of Love”. I disagree with this point as well. John says in 1 John 2:7, “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard.” Yes, we have the Spirit to enable us to walk in the instructions of God, but the instructions haven’t changed. Did Yeshua intensify them by teaching them in more fullness than the pen of Moses did? Absolutely. It’s not just about murder, but about hate. It’s not just about the act of adultery, but the act of lust. However murder and adultery are still wrong. Yeshua never contradicted the law. The only “new” command He gave was to love others the way He loved us.

      As for circumcision, you mentioned how Yeshua turned circumcision into a matter of the heart rather than a matter of the physical flesh. But it was ALWAYS supposed to be a matter of the heart that was carried in the flesh as well. The idea of circumcision of the heart was not new to the New Testament. “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn” (Deuteronomy 10:16).

      As for Paul and circumcision, its a little trickier. In Galatians 5:2 he says, “Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” Yet, in Acts 21:20-26 Paul takes a Nazarite vow to prove that he is NOT teaching against circumcision. What I can see of it now is that Paul was vehemently opposed to people undergoing circumcision IN ORDER TO BE SAVED, as many of the Jews promoted. The idea that Gentiles couldn’t be saved UNLESS they were circumcised was offensive to Paul, as it should be. Salvation comes from faith in the atoning death of the Messiah, not from any work we do. Abraham believed and it was counted to him as righteousness. Circumcision was merely the seal of that faith.

      I think the majority of Paul’s writings, which can be twisted into a lawless understanding come from this main issue: His passionate opposition of the idea that works save. Works are a fruit of salvation, not a prerequisite of salvation. Romans lays this out beautifully.

      In the first five chapters Paul explains that we are all sinful because of our disobedience to God’s instructions. The only way we can be made clean is by the blood of our Savior. The justification we receive comes after we exercise faith in His atoning work on our behalf. There is nothing else we do to achieve justification. No work we do can provide for our justification before our holy God. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:28)

      Then in chapter 6, he turns to the issue of sanctification – how we walk after justification. In this chapter, things are very different. Whereas faith alone had center stage in the work of justification, obedience – stemming from that faith – becomes the focus of the walk of sanctification. He thanks God that “you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness… For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:17-19).

      He goes on to say that the law is spiritual (Rom 7:14) and that he delights in the law of God in his inner being (Rom 7:22). He shows that the flesh is hostile to God, because it doesn’t submit to God’s law, but that those in the Spirit are not hostile to God’s law and CAN submit to it (Rom 8:7-9).

      It seems so much of the trouble we fall into as believers come when we focus too heavily on one side or the other. We can love justification and neglect sanctification, or we can love sanctification and neglect justification. BOTH are necessary. BOTH are part of His plan.

      As always, I enjoy our exchanges, Heather. And I look forward to continuing the conversation if you’re still interested. 🙂

      Reply

      • Erica, it seems that if we were to sit down and discuss this, we would be parsing the scriptures all night; and I think that would be a good thing. I have heard Midrash defined as turning something over and over, as I believe we are supposed to do with scripture. I hesitated in responding to you today, because just as you said, there is always so much to respond to. I had a few things on my mind in between picking up tomatoes in Granger county, taking one child to cello, and another to gymnastics; and because I needed to turn my thoughts to other things, I wanted to sit down and give you a portion of what was in my mind.

        In your response about the Samaritan woman, you said Y’shua was referring only to her (or maybe Samaritans collectively); but he actually clarifies who he is talking about in the next sentence–true worshipers (meaning all believers). “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” I actually preached a message on this scripture at a youth leaders conference in Honduras last year. My focus was on the words “in spirit”, because I believe it has been used in an incorrect manner in the past to define worship that is “spirited” or “lively” where I think what the Lord is saying here is the same thing he said to Nicodemus when he said we must be “born of the Spirit” (John 3). In other words, the time was coming and is here when those who are true worshipers will be those who have been “born of the Spirit” or “born again”. Truly scripture says that this is the way we approach the Father, when we have been regenerated and have the seal of our adoption within us. This confirms what we (Erika and Heather) both believe about regeneration or salvation that it is through faith–in this we are agreed. As to sanctification, I believe scripture teaches that this is empowered by the Spirit as well. I agree with you that Y’shua “intensified the law by teaching them in more fullness than the pen of Moses did”, but as my pastor taught last Sunday, it is not necessary to come back under the law to avoid lawlessness as the Judaizers were trying to get those in the church of Galatia to do; rather the Holy Spirit is sufficient to sanctify us as well as save us.

        We can see this in these verses: In Romans it says, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” Paul then talks about how this is not an excuse for sin, and later in chapter 8 says that those who are “in the flesh cannot please God.” Then he repeats good news not just of regeneration, but of sanctification, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Romans 8:9

        and again in Galatians 5:16-18 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” and “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” How do I know that I’m walking in/being led by the Spirit and not living according to my flesh? Well, Paul answers this in the following verses:
        “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:19-24

        Neither one of us are advocating lawlessness, and I think you know me well enough to know that I take for instance, “idolatry”, very seriously. I don’t bow down to idols of stone, but I have made much of my giftings at times to where correction has reduced me to tears. Let’s keep reading through these things together and talking about them, because I know above all things that the Lord wants to set us both free from the need to perform or fulfill certain obligations but as I Thessalonians 4 says, “that we will know how to walk and to please him.”

        Love you and looking forward to Tabernacles!

  3. Posted by Erika on August 14, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Hey again Heather!

    Sorry for the delayed reply. Third trimester is nearly upon me and I feel the accompanying drop in energy. That, combined with picking back up with school, has limited my available time.

    I appreciate this kind of conversation, but I agree that we could go on and on forever. So, we can keep it going as long as our time and interest permit. 🙂

    I’m still not on board with your idea that the place of Jerusalem is no longer important. But we don’t need to go back into that right now.

    Something I did want to comment on was your statement: “it is not necessary to come back under the law to avoid lawlessness as the Judaizers were trying to get those in the church of Galatia to do; rather the Holy Spirit is sufficient to sanctify us as well as save us.”

    Judaizers were trying to get non-Jews to submit to law IN ORDER TO OBTAIN salvation. They wouldn’t acknowledge the Gentiles’ justification by faith alone. This is what Paul so vehemently opposed. But Paul was entirely in favor of already-saved believers walking by the Spirit in the law as written by Moses. In fact, the Spirit’s job according to the Father is to cause us to walk in His statutes and be careful to obey His rules (Ezekiel 36:27).

    You also mentioned Romans 7 where Paul talks about being released from the law. This is a fascinating passage that can very easily be completely misunderstood. At the outset, Paul says he is speaking to those who know the law. He goes on to refer specifically to the law of marriage and divorce given in Deut 24:1-4. Jeremiah 3:8 says that God sent adulterous Israel (the northern kingdom) away with a decree of divorce. Those who know the law of Deut 24 know that once a husband divorces his wife and she goes and marries another, the first husband can never remarry her. This is a MAJOR problem for the house of Israel, and it was a mystery to the sages throughout the ages, because in various places God promises to once again take the house of Israel as His people, His bride. How could this ever be now that she had been divorced and married to another? Surely God would not disregard His own law, right? In Romans 7 Paul explains how the remarriage was possible and NOT in contradiction to the law. Our husband and Savior died so that we could be free from the law that declared us to be an adulteress! (But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Rom 7:3)

    In the same way, when He died, those who are His also died. So, we no longer belong to our pagan husband. In the eyes of the law, when Christ died, we died. He paid the penalty we owed, so we no longer remain under the penalty of the law. The law is satisfied that I died with Christ. Now, we are free to marry our true love.

    The law itself never died. We died.

    Paul repeatedly states in Romans 6, 7, and 8 that God’s law is spiritual, righteous, and good. He teaches that now that we have the Spirit, we can submit to God’s law in a way we never could when we were bound up in our sinful flesh. We once presented our members as slaves to impurity and to LAWLESSNESS leading to more lawlessness, but now we present our members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (Rom 6:19). The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God is in you (Rom 8:7-9). This is HUGE! Those who are in the flesh cannot submit to God’s law. But those who are in the Spirit CAN! It fits exactly with the role of the Spirit to lead us into His statutes and cause us to carefully obey His rules.

    You also pointed out an interesting verse from Galatians: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”

    Some of these things are obvious to us. We know what jealousy, anger, envy, and drunkenness is. But Who defines what is impure? Who defines what constitutes idolatry? God Himself laid out what is impure and what is idolatrous in His law.

    That’s just about all I have the energy for now, but I’m definitely open to keeping the conversation going. 🙂

    I love having sisters in Messiah like you!

    Reply

  4. Hi, If I may…..There is something that is being overlooked and it is so very important. By the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. 2Cor 13:1, Deut 19:15, John 8:17-18, Matthew 18:16, 1 Tim 5:19….

    To read Paul’s letters and then draw an understanding as truth is why there is so many doctrines today…..and understanding MUST have 2 or 3 biblical witnesses to establish truth. If there is no additional biblical witnesses….the understanding must be incorrect.

    It truly breaks my heart to see how easy it is to turn away from the words of our Father and His Son’s words, with just the words of ONE man.

    To the priest…..Malachi 7-8

    Said with much LOVE for our Father and His Son. Much LOVE for His children.

    Reply

  5. Posted by David Keller on October 17, 2013 at 1:35 am

    Hi Heather, with much love I say this….Like you I was once a sunday going to church children’s teacher. I loved teaching kids. The church had my program all laid out….in time I began to study the whole word of God on my own. I began to direct questions to my church leaders. The answers where not biblical truths…..biblical witnesses are needed to establish truth. I pray only for the truth of YAH
    Thank You,
    David

    Reply

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