The End of Christian Legalism

By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.

Why is it so hard for Christians to realize that we live by the entire Bible.  Yes, we should read the Torah and understand its precepts.  Why?  Because all the New Testament cites from it!

 

You may have encountered it by now.  And if you haven’t, then let me demonstrate it for you in the usual speaking dialogue that I use to illustrate…well, what actually happens.

People are like: “Why don’t you obey the old stuff in the Torah, like not eating shrimp and stoning homosexuals. You’re Christian aren’t you?  And didn’t you say that you are Jewish, too?”

Now, usually you can tell if the person is really a Christian and gauge how much they actually know the Jesus of the Bible (and hence, existence) by their response.  They may flippantly say that:

“Jesus died so that I don’t have to obey God’s law.”

And to that, we Christians would point out heresy and simply say that either that person really isn’t a Christian and is deceiving herself, or that that person is a Christian and wasn’t fully educated on what they signed up for and the meaning of God’s graceful justice.  See Romans 3 (find the meat of it here), and 1 John 1.

Or they will say that:

“We do not follow the Old Testament because it is old.”

And to that we can simply point to a fact that the New Testament is now over 2000 years old…does that qualify as old since the Mosaic Covenant wasn’t even that old when Jesus was alive?  Also, does the eternal God’s morality operate like iPhone models?  That is just a very immature Christian whose entire theological critical thinking began to exist when the question was asked.

So what is the answer?  Well, what does the Bible say?  I approach it as follows.  Let’s say…if I were asked the question then:

People are like: “Why don’t you obey the old stuff in the Torah, like not eating shrimp and stoning homosexuals. You’re Christian aren’t you?  And didn’t you say that you are Jewish, too?”

I come with the Bible like: “Nah bro. That portion of the Torah is way too new for me, I’m older than that. I live like Abraham, the father of all Christian believers. He precedes Moses by more than 420 years.”

Folk be like: “What does that mean?”

Christian me says: “I live among pagans and yearn for that better country that I am going towards. If I am found righteous without circumcision, I am God’s friend. If I am found righteous in circumcision, I am God’s friend. The promises of God have their ‘yes’ in Christ and I also am in Christ. Messiah does all needed things for my salvation and righteousness.”

*Hey Christians…that was what Paul was writing about. It was what James and Peter wrote about. There actually is theological purpose and scholarship for why the law of Moses is passing away with Messiah’s priestly fulfillment. Yeah, we are still living by the Old Testament, fam, because the Old gives power to the New. You don’t update God like you do your iPhone. But when the question is asked, do you come with the Bible too?  That’s Romans 4 by the way.  I encourage you all to get a read.  That is why in the Biblical Slavery series and the Life of David series I use cultural and historical context informed by the Bible itself when I mention the laws of Ancient Israel and delineate those laws from the ethical laws of God.  Because very clearly, under the ethical law of God, we all get the sword.  That’s Romans 4 by the way.  I encourage you all to get a read.

The law we are under is dependent entirely upon our covenant with God.  And our covenant with God depends upon whether or not a covenant applies to us or not.

And all of this is determined by blood…and deed.

So then, the descendants of Adam (aka humanity) are under the law that Adam was under (see Genesis 3).  Are we obedient to that law?  Well no, because we all receive the penalty of death, which is proof that we broke that law, Romans 5:12-21.  What about infants who die before they actually sin?  That is the sin that isn’t in the “likeness of Adam’s.”  Adam was originally made a perfectly sinless creature.  Is anyone born that way, perfectly sinless?

No?

Well, we reap the consequence of sinning against the absolutely moral and righteous Ruler.

Of course, that is not where Romans 5 ends, but I’m busy making a point here.

What about Noah?  Didn’t his descendants receive commands and are not we all Noah’s children?  Why yes, yes he did receive commands via the covenant God made with him (us).  See Genesis 9:1-17 for this covenant.   Did we break it?  Well, many of us have.  But if we haven’t, we are still children of Adam, so we are still busted.  Sucks right?  Oh yeah, and we didn’t come out the other side of the flood any better than those before the flood.  Yeah…God was just being merciful to our ancestor because God has a high tolerance for mercy among sinners like us…ouch.

So now we get to the descendants of Abraham.  What covenant did God make with them?  Well, here it is, Genesis 12:1-3 (you will see that it comes with absolutely nothing for Abraham to do in its primary iteration).  Abraham later gets a national covenant within that earlier covenant in Genesis 15.   And it is this covenant that is passed from Abraham, to Isaac, and through birthright to Jacob/Israel but not to Esau.

Then the nation of Israel under Moses enters into the Mosaic Covenant, and here we are.  Now, if you are a child of Adam then Adam’s covenant rests upon you.  If you are a child of Noah, the same thing.  Since that covers everyone reading this, we continue.  If you are a child of Abraham, then so forth.  If you are a descendant of the original Israelite community from Sinai by conversion or by blood, then so forth.  And here we all are.

And we all die, so we all fail.  Go team!

Only a Perfect One who so happens to be a descendant of Adam, a descendant of Noah, a descendant of Abraham, and a descendant of the Israelite community could redeem all of humanity from our death…if and only if that Perfect One obeyed all of the laws and commands of all of the covenants simultaneously throughout their whole life…and without any blemish whatsoever.

In fact, by virtue of the Adamic Covenant, that person would also have to not be a “born sinner” like the rest of us.

But our punishment must be paid for, or else that Perfect One would simply be safe from the wrath of God by themselves while the rest of us are dying towards death and ultimate damnation (as promised way back in Genesis 2:16-17).   The Perfect One would have to be born deathless, and then die the death that we deserve in order to effectively redeem us from our bondage to sin.  But the Perfect One would have to voluntarily die for us in the priestly manner of the sacrificial system that God had set up even from the Garden and prophesied even from then (the one Cain and Abel followed when…well you know).  And because true love isn’t forced, we would have to accept that offer of payment in order to be truly saved and delivered from death.

Who did that?  Who fulfilled all of those covenants by birth and by merit?

Jesus.

Who do we follow now?

Jesus.

How did Jesus save us?

By the priestly order of Melchizedek.

But who do we live like now?

Jesus…according to the way Abraham (the father of the circumcised and uncircumcised by faith, which is Romans 4, which you should give a read) lived.  We longingly live for that better country.  Not any one built by human hands, or social schemes, or the philosophies of mankind, or money, or power of the State, or the better moral social consciences of our benevolent earthly benefactors, but we live for the New Jerusalem made by God alone.

Nah pana, estamos viviendo para el pais del cielo que aún está aquí con nosotros a la mano.  We are longing for the realm of God our Father, the Author and Finisher of our entire trust (aka faith).  Abraham lived peacefully among pagans, but struggling to never conform to their level.  He represented God at all times, and strived to proclaim God’s justice and love daily by his actions even though he was far from perfect.  Abraham fought against oppression, and he and his family lived righteously even in the midst of wholesale evil.  And he and his family were spared through the judgment of God.

You see, we live in the New Covenant which was being revealed throughout this entire time of human history.

We are being spared from the wrath to come because…well…Jesus is the ark, pana.  Pa’ lo que sepas, estamos bien confirmados en el pacto real de Dios.

So, as it is, the answer quite simply is that we Christians very much do live by the Old Testament too.  We’re just very vintage about it, is all.

“Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

Jesus the Messiah

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s