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Observing the Sabbath? Role of the Old Testament?

Posted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 7:27 am
by email
As you mention in your introductory remarks - there are so many organizations offering the truth. Just who is right?

I have read some of your articles, but coming from a legalistic denomination I am still confused about the Ten Commandments, law and sin.

In I John 3:4 we read that sin is the transgression of the law. Just what law is being discussed? I had always through the law that included the Ten Commandments - but that would also include practices that are impossible for ordinary people today. For example, I'm not at liberty to kill a witch (Exodus 22:18, 20). I don't wear tassels, but I suppose I could (Numbers 15:38-40; Deuteronomy 22:12).

So just what law do we transgress to commit sin?

Posted: Wed Apr 30, 2008 12:31 am
by m273p15c
Who is right? Only the Lord is right. :-) We all must seek His way, because only He will judge us (John 14:48). And, only He can save us (John 6:68)! How do we seek His way? We have to go back to the "the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it" (Jeremiah 6:16). Only the Bible contains the record of the Way (II Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 3:3-5), as originally and "once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

You have asked an excellent question! There is much confusion regarding the division of the covenants and the laws that God has given man. In short, the law of Moses is associated with the Old Covenant, given to the Jews. When Jesus died on the cross, that covenant was fulfilled and done away. The Old Law was done away with the Old Covenant. As one proof text, please consider this passage:
Paul, an inspired apostle, wrote:Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another -- to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. ... What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." (Romans 7:1-7)
Please note that Paul says that this law taught him "not to covet"! Which law teaches this? Is it not the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21-22)? Therefore, the Ten Commandments are part of "the law" and have ceased, just as the entire Old Law. You can read more about the difference between the Old and New Covenants here: ... ents2.html

(The Ten Commandments are a subset of the Old Law. The Old Law contained many more laws, as demonstrated in this usage of the phrase, "the law", recorded in Luke 2:22-24; John 7:23; Galatians 5:3. In short, the Old Law, the Law of Moses, "the law", the Old Testament, and the Old Covenant are basically* synonymous. They relate to God's covenant with the Jews, which covers the time period from the giving of the law at Mount Sinai to the death of Jesus on the cross. *=Not exactly synonymous, but close enough for today's exchange. They refer to different aspects of the same relationship between God and the Jews.)

Does that mean there is no sin, no transgression of law today, since we are no longer bound to the law of Moses? No. We are still under law, just a different law - a new law. Here are a few passages that reference this new law:
Paul wrote:For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)
Please note the contrast between the New Law, delivered by the Spirit, producing life in Jesus verses the Old Law, which produced sin and death.
Paul and John wrote:Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (spoken by Jesus on the night before His crucifixion, John 13:34)
This is a clear reference to at least one "commandment" of a "new" law given by Christ, which is elsewhere contrasted with the law given by Moses (John 1:17).
Paul wrote:For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (I Corinthians 9:19-22)
This is a somewhat more involved lesson, but it is very helpful: After Christ's death on the cross, God demanded that the Jews repent and submit to the New Covenant (Acts 2:37-38; 17:30-31). But, He permitted the Jews to continue keeping the Old Law as a custom, assuming they neither bound it upon others nor sought to be justified by it (Romans 14; Galatians 5:4). In the above passage, Paul demonstrates an unexpected flexibility by adapting to his audience as much as was permitted by the law of Christ. When among Jews, he observed their customs rooted in the Old Law (Acts 21:17-26). However, when he was among the Gentiles, he neither flaunted his Jewish traditions nor demanded they observe it (Acts 15:12-21; 17:25; Galatians 2:3-5). He removed every possible, cultural barrier to those he preached the gospel. Yet, even though he did not practice "the law", when among the Gentiles, he was always "under law toward Christ". This fact again demonstrates the existence of a new law and our obligation to it.
James wrote:If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:8-13)
First, anticipating a common counter-argument, please notice that the Ten Commandments are considered to be "the law", along with the other writings of Moses. The command, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18), is not one of the Ten Commandments, yet is reckoned as part of "the law" in this passage, along with two of the Ten Commandments. In fact, Jesus claimed the command to love our neighbor was one of two primary commandments of "all the Law and the Prophets", since all the other commandments were based upon this one and the ultimate command to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22:35-40). This common association prevents us from making arbitrary distinctions within "the law", such as "ceremonial law" versus "moral law". Such unsupported distinctions might otherwise free us to jettison the parts we have arbitrarily assigned to the "ceremonial law".

Second, please note that we cannot pick and choose which parts of this Old Law to keep. If we fail in any point, we are "guilty of the whole law"! For example, this prohibits us from binding the Sabbath law, or instrumental music in worship, while loosing the sacrificial laws.

Third, this old law stands in contrast to a law of liberty, so there is indeed a new law! However, even thought it is a law of "liberty", we must remember that we will be "judged" by it and should act accordingly! Therefore, even though this new law is based on a system of grace and faith, it still demands obedience and condemns transgression of it:
Matthew wrote:Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' (Matthew 7:21-23)
In closing, yes, sin still exists today, even for Christians:
John wrote:My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. (I John 2:1-5)
However, this sin is not the violation of the Old Law associated with the Old Covenant, given to the Jews. This sin is the transgression of the New Law, given by Jesus and His apostles and prophets to all His saints. Therefore, we are to keep "His commandments". ("Him" being "Jesus Christ the righteous".) We are to "hear Him" - not Moses, Elijah, or any of the Old Testament prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-2). And, if we do not obey His new law, God will "require it" of us, as foretold by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). Fortunately, we can receive forgiveness under this New Law of Spirit and life in Jesus simply by confessing our sins, repenting of them, and asking for forgiveness (I John 1:7-9; Acts 8:20-23). This is mercy!

Incidentally, before we become Christians, we sin against another law, which is a universal law between God and His creation - except for the Jews, who had the special law and covenant (Romans 1:18-32; 2:12-16). But, that universal law is a discussion for another day. ;-)

I pray this helps, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Posted: Tue May 06, 2008 3:55 am
by email
Thank you again for taking the time to reply.

I can see how it is a mistake to divide the 'Law' into several sections. And on that basis, all Old Covenant law has now disappeared. However, when the man came to Christ and asked what he should do to gain eternal life, Christ answered with 'Keep the Commandments' (Matthew 19). Now we know that Christ's sacrifice is the only route to salvation - but surely Jesus is here indicating that commandment keeping (including, by implication, the Sabbath) is a way of life that stands us in good stead for eternity?

Or am I way off base?

Posted: Tue May 06, 2008 9:54 am
by m273p15c
That's a good question. Please keep in mind that this event occurred before the cross. During His life on earth - before the cross - Jesus always admonished people to keep the law - because it was still in effect!
Matthew, an apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote:For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:18-19)
However, His death fulfilled the Old Law (Romans 10:4; 7:1-4) and ushered in the New Covenant with its New Law (Hebrews 9:14-17). If Jesus were on earth after the cross, I would expect Him to admonish us to keep the New Covenant, as did His apostles and prophets.

I pray this helps. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Posted: Tue May 06, 2008 10:58 am
by email
I appreciate your answer.

I guess my real problem comes down to the Sabbath. I cannot get away from the fact that God sanctified it at Creation (Genesis 2:2,3) Yes, I know the argument that there are no instructions for man to observe the seventh day. And yes, I have heard all about Colossians 2:16-17, Romans 14, Galatians 4:9,10. But I still can't find any evidence that God UNsanctified the day. Colossians 2:16-17 talks about events that ARE shadows - not WERE shadows. Christ may have fulfilled some (Passover, unleavened bread and Pentecost), but how about Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles?

I am desperate to find the truth - and these are genuine concerns.

Posted: Wed May 07, 2008 1:20 am
by m273p15c
I see you have been studying this question for a while. :-) Yes, these are valuable concerns. May I break them down into the following arguments with response?
  1. Sanctified at Creation without NT UN-sanctification - True, the Sabbath is not specifically loosed in the NT. However, many aspects of the OT have not been specifically loosed in the NT. You mentioned a few: various feasts, rites, punishments, stoning, etc. Therefore, I would guess you are already somewhat comfortable with the idea that something need not be specifically loosed. If that is you persuasion, then I agree, and here's why:

    When Jesus died on the cross, He took away the entire Old Law, including the Sabbath. Remember, Romans 7:1-7 specifically mentions 1 of the Ten Commandments as being part of the "law" that was done away. Therefore, He did not take away just the "ceremonial law", which distinction (ceremonial versus moral law) is unsupported by Scripture, as far as I know. Furthermore, please recall what James and Paul both said, if you try to keep any part of the Old Law, you become a debtor (and transgressor) of the entire law (Galatians 5:2-4; James 2:8-11). They all go together. Therefore, when Jesus took away the Old Law in general, they were all "UN-sanctified" together. Not every single command of the Old Law had to be specifically "UN-sanctified", because they were all included in the general statements of UN-sanctification, like Romans 7:1-7.

    On occasion, when Genesis 2:2-3 is raised, the point is made that the Sabbath was instituted before the Old Law and transcends it. The conclusion being that the Sabbath law continues, even though the Old Law was done away. Please consider: Could the comment in Genesis 2:2-3 ("Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.") be just that - a comment? For example, in Matthew 10:4, Matthew mentions that Judas betrayed Jesus in the same sentence as Jesus' original appointing of the apostles. But, clearly we understand this to be Matthew's inspired comment, which emphasizes the significance of this fact (Jesus selecting Judas) based on future events (Judas betraying Jesus). Judas did not betray Jesus when Jesus appointed him, as the text would literally suggest. Could Genesis 2:2-3 be a similar inspired annotation, in which Moses emphasizes the significance of a past event (Creation) to more recent past events (the giving of the Sabbath law)? Please recall that Nehemiah 9:13-14 and Ezekiel 20:10-12 pinpoint the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai as being the origination of the Sabbath law. And, nowhere is the keeping of the Sabbath law mentioned until the giving of the Old Law (Exodus 16:23). Finally, God specifically associates the Sabbath as being a sign of the covenant between Him and the children of Israel - not all of creation (Exodus 31:13-17; Ezekiel 20:12).

    Maybe you are making too much of Genesis 2:2-3?
  2. Regarding Colossians 2:16-17; Romans 14; and Galatians 4:9-10; it seems these passages are specifically UN-sanctifying the Sabbath, as well as all previous holy days.
  3. Regarding the "ARE shadows" versus "WERE shadows", I admit this may be a little disconcerting; however, the overall context seems clear. Paul first says, "So, let no one judge you in ...". How could this be true, if these laws were still binding? Furthermore, please notice the contrast: "... but, the substance is of Christ". These regulations stand in opposition to the real thing that cast the shadow, Christ. If we are still in the shadow, then we cannot see Christ! Christ has not come, if the shadows persist in authority.

    Really, everything in the context shows that all the Sabbaths (weekly, monthly, and yearly) were done away in Christ: In verses 9-10, we learn that we are complete in Christ. Based on this, in verses 11-15, we learn that in Him we are saved by a new circumcision of the heart in baptism (v.11-12). This baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (compare with Romans 6:1-6), which gains its power from the fact that the Old Law and its condemnation was done away at the cross (v. 14). As a consequence, we learn in verses 16-17 that we are free from all the customary observances of the Old law. In verses 18-19, the phrase, "let no one cheat you of your reward", parallels the phrase, "let no one judge you in...", indicating the danger in going back to portions of the Old Law (compare to Galatians 4:9-10). In verses 20-23, we again see that we are dead to these regulations, and they offer no spiritual value to us.

    Therefore, I would not let the tense of one word trouble me to the point of ignoring the remainder of the context plus the other passages we have both mentioned.

    As explanation, Paul said they "are shadows", because those practices were continuing at that time. It would be inaccurate to say they "were shadows", because many people still believed and continued to observe the Sabbath at that time. The shadows had not ceased at that time. Even today, I would speak of the Sabbath being a shadow. It is a shadow, because people observe it even today, albeit incorrectly (Seventh Day Adventists, for example). However, it would be unfair to assume that I believe we should practice Sabbath today, because the context of our entire discussion would suggest otherwise, just as does the context of Colossians 2:9-23. Paul's tense here ("are" versus "were") is accommodative, indicating the ongoing practice. It should not be considered a commendation, especially in light of the context and the remainder of the New Testament.
  4. Regarding every aspect of the Old Law being symbolic of Jesus, I am not sure that is a fair requirement. Some feasts or customs may have simply had a point that was specific to the Jews or their nurturing before God. For example, the feast of Tabernacles, which you mentioned, was designed to help them remember that they once wondered in the desert, utterly dependent upon God while living in tents or "tabernacles" (Leviticus 23:41-43). Although they no longer lived in tents, this feast helped them to be thankful, while remembering they were still just as dependent upon God. Again, keep in mind that this was required of all "native Israelites" for their "generations" - not all creation (Leviticus 23:41-43).

    I understand that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Law in that: 1) He perfectly kept all the righteous requirements of the law (Romans 8:3-4); 2) He fulfilled all the prophecies concerning the Messiah (Luke 24:44); and 3) He generally fulfilled the purpose of the Old Covenant and brought it to a close (Romans 10:4). I am unaware of any requirement that every facet of the Old Law be symbolic of something in the New Covenant. If you know of a Scripture that necessitates that conclusion, please let me know.
More could be said. I pray we find this helpful in understanding God's will for you and me. ... If you had been or still are a Seventh Day Adventist, I imagine this study will be very hard, as it is a focal point of that religion. It seems Peter also had a hard time coming to grips with all the implications of the gospel (Acts 10:9-17), even after preaching it himself (Acts 2:39). I pray we both find patience, mercy, and truth during this Bible study.

May God help us to have open eyes, ears, and hearts

Posted: Mon May 12, 2008 2:11 am
by email
Hello again. I really do appreciate the time you have taken with my dilemma.

In an earlier e-mail we discussed Christ's reply to the young man who came to Him to ask what was necessary for eternal life. You responded by saying that the instruction to 'keep the commandments' was prior to the cross and therefore no longer relevant. Can I challenge you on that response, please?

On the face of it, I accept what you say - and have, in fact, used that argument myself on occasion. However, if we dismiss everything Christ said prior to the cross, we'd have to say that the Sermon on the Mount - where Christ 'expanded' the law to a spiritual level (you have heard it said of old...but I say to you) - is also irrelevant. In addition, just two chapters before the man came to Christ with his eternal life question we have the account of the transfiguration. One way of looking at this is to say that God is indicating that we can place Christ's teachings over those of Moses and Elijah. (The voice said Listen to Him. And then the visions of Moses and Elijah disappeared leaving Christ alone.) So, on that basis, when Christ said 'keep the commandments' should we listen to Him? And those commandments are, of course, part of the law.

I am truly not trying to be argumentative. I sincerely am looking for the truth. But I'm still unsure which rescuer will take me to safe ground.

Posted: Wed May 14, 2008 3:47 pm
by m273p15c
Your follow-up question is both good and appreciated. Ask all the questions you need to ask. Trust me, you are no where close to being argumentative. You should see some of the other correspondence I get. :-D

Jesus' response to the rich young ruler does not apply to us, not because it was uttered before the cross, but because it was personally uttered to a man living under the Old Law. To say that the reason is because it was uttered before the cross is an oversimplification.

Jesus had a complex mission. He was fulfilling many different roles. For example, He was serving as both High Priest and King (Zechariah 6:11-14; Hebrews 5:5-6; 7:1, 11-19). Furthermore, He was both human and divine (Mark 2:5-12). And finally, He proclaimed the gospel of the coming kingdom. For example, consider the prelude to the Sermon on the Mount:
Mark and Matthew wrote:Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him -- from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: ... (Matthew 4:23-5:2)
This preaching was preparatory. He was getting the people ready for the kingdom. The people were to repent at that moment; however, Jesus specific commands regarding the New Covenant did not come into affect until after He died on the cross:
And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. (Hebrews 9:15-17)
However, not everything He said pertained to the kingdom. He often taught concerning the Old Law too. You see, He lived under the Old Law, as did the rich young ruler and all the Jews' of Jesus day. Therefore, He could not tell them to violate the Old Law, because it was still in effect, because He had not died on the cross (Romans 7:1-7). The law had to be fulfilled first:
Matthew wrote:"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-19)
Jesus could not personally release men from the Old Law, during His life; otherwise, He would have become a sinner! Therefore, Jesus spoke concerning both the Old and New Laws, because He lived under the Old and fulfilled it; however, He also provided the foundation for a New Covenant to come.

Please consider the following points about Jesus' personal preaching:
  1. The vast majority of His preaching applied to general attitudes of the heart and spiritual principles, and it would be applicable under either the Old or New Covenant. Therefore, recordings of such teaching will offer little explanation or difficulty in resolving our question.
  2. On occasion, Jesus taught something different than the Old Law; however, this difference was always a further restricting of the Old Law. When someone followed Jesus' teaching on such subjects, he would have been brought closer to God's original purpose, while never violating the Old Law. For example, consider Jesus' teaching on divorce as compared to the Law of Moses:

    The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?" And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." (Matthew 19:3-9)

    Please note that Jesus went to the Creation for both His teaching and God's original design. Second, He explains the reason for Moses' law (which reason was that the Jews were too spiritually week to tolerate anything more restrictive), and He dismisses Moses' law with the preface, "And I say to you," clearly stating His authority over Moses. ... Keep in mind, keeping Jesus' command would not have violated Moses' law, so He is still not teaching them to violate the Old Law.
  3. On other occasions, Jesus clearly taught a practice that was to be observed in the future kingdom - not at that time. For example, consider the institution of the Lord's Supper:
    Matthew wrote:"But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:29)
    The Lord's Supper was not to be observed until after the institution of the kingdom, which supper they eventually observed (Acts 2:41-42; 20:7; I Corinthians 11:17-34)
  4. Finally, on some occasions, Jesus taught people to follow the practice of the Old Law, the law under which they were living. For example, Jesus told the ten lepers to go show themselves to the priest (Luke 17:12-13), which would have satisfied a unique command under the Old Law ("the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing", Leviticus 14:1-32; see also Deuteronomy 24:8-9).
Now, for the million-dollar question, "How can we determine whether Jesus is speaking in regards to the Old Law or the New Law?". According to observation #1, it typically does not matter, because it could and would apply to both. For almost all other occasions, the context makes the answer to our question very clear. For example, please consider the case in Matthew 19: Remember, Jesus clearly set His teaching in contrast to Moses ("Moses ... permitted ... I say to you"). There is no doubt here. Furthermore, in giving of the Lord's Supper, Jesus clearly states that He would not approve the observance of this Supper, until the kingdom had come; therefore, it was not to be observed at that immediate time. Now, by making use of the same observations, let us consider the case of the rich young ruler, according to all the gospel accounts:
Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote:Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, " 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22)

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and your mother.' " And he answered and said to Him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth." Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me." But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 17:22)

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother.' " And he said, "All these things I have kept from my youth." So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. (Luke 18:18-23)
Yes, Jesus tells this man to keep the commandments; however, the man specifically asks, "Which ones?". And, look at Jesus' answer:
Matthew wrote:"'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
First, if the Sabbath is so important, why did Jesus not mention it? Jesus only mentioned the same commands, which were eventually reissued elsewhere in the New Covenant (Romans 13:8-10; Colossians 3:5; I Corinthians 6:9-11)! Keep in mind, Jesus was specifically asked which commands were to be kept!

Now if someone was debate that point, please consider this line of reasoning: If one wants to include the Sabbath under the generic word for commands and the context being the Old Covenant, then why would all the otherwise unique Old Law practices not be also required, since thy were also commands, like the priesthood, sacrifices, incense, trumpets, dancing, altars, temples, tabernacles, pilgrimage to Jerusalem, attacking pagan nations, stoning rebellious children, killing homosexuals, etc.? If someone answers, "Yes, but these practices were elsewhere loosed in the New Testament", then my would reply would, "Yes, and so is all of the Old Law and its commands (see Romans 7:1-7)". ... From what I understand, the binding of the Sabbath requires some level of inconsistency, which we cannot be embraced in all honesty.

Some will make a distinction between the "moral law" and the "ceremonial law", but this distinction is not supported by Scripture. In fact, the Scriptures supports all the practices of the Old Covenant as being part of one law. Please see our earlier emails for more on this point.

Second, even if Jesus had in mind the Sabbath, (and I believe He probably did), His commands were specifically given to the rich young ruler, who lived under the Old Law. There is no indication that the specifics of this exchange were to be applied to all people. For example, notice the personal nature:
  • "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"
  • "But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
  • "You know the commandments:" - (Can this be said of all people?)
  • "All these things I have kept from my youth, What do I still lack?" - (Can this be said of all people?)
  • Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him,
  • "One thing you lack" or "If you want to be perfect" - (Can this be said of all people?)
  • "Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."
If this passage is meant to apply to all people for all times, then we are all in grave danger, because none of us have sold all of our possessions! Why have we not? We have not obeyed this command, because it was not given to us! It was given for a unique person in a unique time, who had a unique problem. Riches were the one thing that stood between him and God. Jesus looked at him, perceived that weakness, loved him, and told him what he wanted and needed to hear - although he ultimately proved that he did not want to know. Incidentally, only then could he have physically wandered with Jesus, as did the rest of His closest disciples, which is something that is impossible today. Furthermore, we learn elsewhere in the New Testament that we are permitted to both have possessions and even be rich, although we must be ready to part with them at a moment's notice ("while it remained, was it not your own?", Acts 5:1-4; I Timothy 6:17-19). Therefore, we are not required to sell all that we have, despite the command Jesus gave to the rich young ruler.

Again, the context shows that this command was limited to the young man, and failure to recognize the context produces an inconsistency either within oneself or the rest of Scriptures.

In conclusion, yes, we must be careful to obey Jesus. However, on occasion Jesus gave specific instruction according to the Old Law to those living under the Old Law. These occasions are made clear by the context. We must be careful not to bind the teaching from these rare occasions, especially in light of other clear passages in the New Testament (like Romans 7:1-7; Colossians 2; Galatians 3; etc.).

I pray this helps answer your question. If you have any more, by all means, please send them. You are doing the best thing by asking them! :)

May God help us to love truth sincerely

Posted: Tue May 20, 2008 8:32 am
by email
As a follow-up, do you have any thoughts about these two sections of scripture:

In Isaiah 66 it appears to suggest that the Sabbath (and new moons) will be a marker for the division of time in the New Heaven and New Earth. If those are to be observed at that time, why not now?

Similarly, Zechariah 14 suggests that the Feast of Tabernacles will be observed in the millennium (and by Gentiles, too - people from Egypt). Again, if that is the case, why not now? (I appreciate that it also talks about sacrifices - and I don't understand that portion of scripture since Christ's sacrifice would appear to negate any future sacrifices.

Any thoughts?

Posted: Wed May 21, 2008 12:50 am
by m273p15c
Just a very brief answer regarding those verses - If you look at the context, I think you will see it is very figurative and symbolic. Trying to place a literal interpretation on these two contexts will produce many fantastic and even contradictory applications, like the sacrifices you noted.

Therefore, I would conclude that these references to Sabbaths, feasts, and other Old Testament forms of worship serve as symbols of either New Testament or heavenly worship, indicating the dedication, devotion, and holiness of the worship. In general, my answer would be very similar to an argument made for instrumental music based on the symbolic reference in the book of Revelation. Please see this post for more detail and an answer that might be similarly styled: ... revelation

Generally, we must be very careful in trying to make literal interpretation of the highly symbolic, apocryphal writings, like Zechariah, Revelation, portions of Ezekiel, portions of Isaiah, etc. I try to interpret these writings consistently as being symbolic, since I think the context demands it (consider Revelation 1:1, 10, for example).

I'll try to do some study on these two passages, so I can provide a better answer to their more specific meaning.

I pray this helps in the meantime.

Posted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:35 am
by email
Yesterday, I really thought I could see the difference between my beliefs of so many years and what you have been writing to me. Essentially, I think the difference is between Religion and Christianity. The Old Covenant was religion - and even though it originated with God, it was religion that was doomed to fail. And that surely was God's purpose. Obeying commandments - no matter how good - can only create character, they cannot change the heart.

At the beginning, God wanted a relationship with Adam and Eve, not set up a religion. Their sin destroyed the relationship - caused them to hide from God. But God came looking for them and covered them with animal hides (a forerunner of Christ's sacrifice).

Maybe I have been looking too hard for God - rather than let Him find me.

Anyway, early stages in this thinking, so I'll have to meditate some more.

Posted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 9:50 pm
by m273p15c
It sounds like you are doing well. I am glad to hear that you are feeling better about understanding the two covenants.

To be straightforward, I am not entirely confident in my understanding of why God made the covenants as He did. There are not a lot of Scriptures on this point, but it is an intriguing and instructional thought, even though I have not yet found a firm conclusion.

I do believe God wanted and sought a relationship with Old Testament saints, and even those who preceded the Old Law:
Moses and Micah wrote:You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. (Deuteronomy 6:5-6; see also 10:12-13)

With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)

And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24)

This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:9)
What was the point of the Old Law? Paul states it in this way:
Paul wrote:What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. (Galatians 3:19)
What was the reason for the Old Law? From this passage, it seems that sin was the primary reason for God's creation of the Old Law. What does that mean? I am not entirely sure, but let's keep reading to see if it will become clearer
Paul wrote:Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin ... (Galatians 3:21-22a)
Well, we do at least know the law was not given to provide life, because we learn that it is fundamentally impossible for law in general to give life. Why is that? And, why would God provide something that would not work for us?
Paul wrote: But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. (Galatians 3:22-23)
Now we focus on the reason why the law, as revealed through Scripture, has condemned us to sin: So that we might believe! But, believe what? Verse 19 and 22 gave us a clue, but the following verses makes it clear:
Paul wrote:Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:24-27)
The Old Law served as a teacher, guardian, schoolmaster, or pedagogue until we were mature or ready. The Greek word, paidagogos, means:
1) a tutor i.e. a guardian and guide of boys. Among the Greeks and the Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood. (Strong's #3807)
But, at what point were we mature or ready? And, ready for what? Paul has already given the answer (Galatians 4:4): The law was "to bring us to Christ, so that we might be justified by faith". I guess that without the law, we would not have been able to handle the requirement for belief in Jesus. Now here is where I start having difficulty. Why would that have been a problem? Why would belief in Jesus have been so hard? Currently, I think there were two fundamental stumbling stones: Christ and justification by faith. Taken together, they point the way to the real problem.

Please notice that this teacher, the Old Law, was not only to bring us to Christ, but it was to enable justification by faith. It was only after this system of justification came, which was founded on Christ, that the teacher's job was done. Why would these two items be difficult for us to accept? I think part of the answer may lie in the previous verses: Remember the law could not give life. It could not justify us (Galatians 3:21)! That's what Paul says here, but recall that just previous, Paul stated the law not only could provide life, he stated the conditions:
Paul wrote:Yet the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them." (Galatians 3:12; see also Romans 10:5; Leviticus 18:5)
So, what was the real problem? The law? No, the problem was us all along:
Paul wrote:For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)
The problem with the law was never the law. It was us! The law relied on us, because its offer of life was predicated upon our perfect keeping of it. Its justification depended upon us!!! The law offered no provision for any failure, second chances, mercy or forgiveness. That is why Christ and a system of justification by faith in Him had to come. We were too weak obtain the life that the Old Law, or any law promised through perfect keeping of it. But, why? What was the problem? For this, let us go back to the beginning:
Moses wrote:Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-6)
Since the beginning, man has been second-guessing God, passing all of God's judgments through a filter, "Does this make sense to me?" We have been offering lip-service to God, saying that we trust Him, but in reality, when push comes to shove, the commands that demand our sacrifice but do not make sense to us, we find some way to excuse and dismiss. This is a failure to trust God, to truly believe in Him and have faith in Him. For some reason, we still think we can do it. We fail to see the horror of our sins and our utter failure to justify ourselves. Here, Paul's other statement regarding the purpose of the law makes sense:
Paul wrote:And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. (Romans 7:10-13)
Even though millions of gallons of blood were spilled during the Old Covenant, it is only at the cross that we see the true terror and destruction of our sins. Only in the spilled blood of our loving, perfect, innocent Creator, "the just for the unjust", do we realize what we have done. God made the world and us "good", "straight", or "upright" (Genesis 1:31; Ecclesiastes 7:29), and later He made the world "crooked" (Ecclesiastes 7:13), so that we might turn and seek Him (Romans 8:20-21). Even though the world has become a reflection of us, our weakness prohibited us from seeing how sinful our sins truly are.

The Old Law climaxed in the final sacrifice for sin, which expressed not only God's true nature (justice and love), but it also expressed our own: stubbornness, failure, and destruction. And, that is what we did not want to see. We do not mind hearing about love, or even God's justice, assuming it is not directed toward us. We revel in such truths, but to accept our true nature, one that we have chosen - that is a far harder thing.

Christ's sacrifice communicates the weight of our sin. No one can "see" sin. We may see its earthly consequences, but only at the cross do we really see the true cost of our sin without having to personally suffer its eternal consequences. The Old Law, culminated at the cross, makes that apparent. However, it makes one other thing apparent to us, which is well explained in the next paragraph:
Paul wrote:For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:14-24)
Although the logic may be a little difficult, the point is clear: The law made our sins abundantly manifest to us. In light of the law and the cross's presentation of sin, we now have some true sense of the gross weight of our sin, and now we are ready to finally rely upon God, and with Paul we can cry out, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Now, with a crushed, humble, and truly penitent heart we are ready to trust God and have faith in Him (Psalm 51:15-17). Now, we are ready to be justified by faith. Now we are ready to have a relationship with God.

But, we have relationships with all creatures. We have a spiritual relationship with God as sinner or saint, because He is our Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge - regardless. This is obvious, as I am confident you know. I have said all of this to bring us to this question: "What kind of relationship does God seek?" I dare not try to summarize what is expressed in the sum of Scripture, but surely faith, justice, love, and mercy would be near the top of the list (Matthew 23:23; Micah 6:6-8; I John 4:8, 16). Observing that reliance upon ourselves is what brought us here, surely faith is crucial, as noted in Scripture (Hebrews 11:6). It is no surprise that a covenant that justifies us through God (faith), and not through us (works), would encourage a relationship that is built upon trust. The difference in the relationship between the Old and the New might be summed up in this word, "Father". I need to do some more studying on this point, but I do not think the Lord ever adopted this title until the New Covenant. Before, He was always the Existing One (Jehovah), God, or Lord, but never "Father". The father-child relationship may be a key difference. This is also manifested in Jesus calling us "friend" and "brother", although Abraham was called the friend of God previously (II Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23). There is a closeness, exhibited in disclosure of more, clear information (Matthew 13:16-17; John 15:14-15; I Peter 1:10-12), but is also exhibited in heightened requirements, requirements that more so try our faith and test our tenderness of heart.

Consider that Jesus eliminated general divorce in the New Law, something that was tolerated under the Old Law:
Matthew wrote:They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." (Matthew 19:7-9)
This is also observed in worship: Many of the carnal aspects of worship, which served as a shadow, have been eliminated, replaced with a truer spiritual form. There is no more temple, incense, feasts, or instrumental music. These things have been replaced with the people of the church, prayer, the Lord's Supper, and singing from the heart (I Corinthians 3:16-17; II Corinthians 6:16-18; Revelation 5:8; I Corinthians 5:7-8; 11:23-26; Ephesians 5:19). These newer forms provide little if any gratification to our "flesh", while providing ample nutrition to our "spirit".

Lastly, faith is easily seen in baptism. Who would believe that baptism is connected with our salvation? But, just as God granted Naaman cleansing from his washing in water, so the Lord grants us forgiveness of sins through faith in the waters of baptism (Galatians 3:26-27; Acts 2:37-38; I Peter 3:21; Romans 6:1-8). It does not make sense to me, but I think that may be the point (I Corinthians 1:18-31). Maybe that why it is called, "justification by faith"?
email wrote:Maybe I have been looking too hard for God - rather than let Him find me.
Luke wrote:"And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' (Acts 17:26-28)
We can definitely look too hard or not in the right way or the not in the right places, but we definitely need to look. :-) From every extreme, there is another far removed and equally wrong. This is a trap into which mainstream, Protestant denominations have fallen I believe, in that they teach salvation through faith or grace only. As the old saying goes, too many people ran too hard away from Rome that they did not stop at Zion, but kept on running until they were in Egypt. :-)

I pray you find some value in these meditations. I look forward to hearing from you again.

May God bless us with tender hearts.