(This series will be updated roughly semi-weekly until complete)
In churches across the world nuances of resistance are beginning to emerge from pulpits, Sunday School classrooms and private conversations at the church water fountain. The subject of this movement seems always tied to someone’s reluctant (and less than systematic) foray into the world of the Old Testament. After all, we are a unified church of Jesus Christ: New Testament Christians. The simple truth is that most know little of the Old Testament, as most are content to remain on the shallow end of the theological pool where it is both safe and easy to navigate. Sure, a good student will certainly have perused Psalms and Proverbs. They may possibly even have a well-rounded story board of the patriarchs in immediate recall. Yet, when it comes to the Old Testament Law; those numerous commandments of Moses, there has been a long-standing policy which has until recently been unchallenged by the masses: that part of the Bible was for the Jews- not us.
To establish the foundation of this work from the start, I must cautiously state, “I agree,” to a specific extent.
The Law was given with a unique purpose for a defining phase of God’s progressive revelation of himself to the world. And, to make short work of it, Jesus himself stated that he had fulfilled the law:
Matthew 5:17 (NIV)
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Clearly, Jesus draws a distinction between two ideas: that of abolishment and fulfillment. “Abolishment” renders something as absent; eliminated. “Fulfillment,” however, renders something as “done,” with no need to be revisited for another crack at it.
It is true that Jesus did not abolish the law. That is what he said. The law remains as a testimony to God’s character and man’s utter inability to live up to his expectations. The New Testament gives a thorough explanation of the purposes the Law served in God’s progressive testimony of himself, which will be studied in this work. And, it also unequivocally pronounces that work fulfilled and utterly “done.”
However, for many, there remains confusion over the newly discovered “material” stumbled upon during their “Bible in a year” program. The Law is there, and it is the Bible, so aren’t we supposed to do what the Bible says?
That certainly seems to be a revived theme among some authors and preachers. Books rise up commonly on topics related to the reinstitution of portions of the Law of Moses. Some tout the necessity of obeying the dietary laws. Periodically someone resurrects the need for the church to participate in one or more of the Jewish Festivals, such as Passover. On a larger scale are many who uphold the Ten Commandments as essential fare for the Christian table. I’ve preached through the Ten Commandments in church, myself, though with a different focus than some preach them today.
So, what is the answer? Are we to obey the Law of Moses or not?
Attempts to answer that question relegate Christendom to a toppled ant mound, scurrying in hundreds of directions, each with a differing view of where to draw a magical line perceived to divide the Law into “those parts we obey” and “those parts we do not obey.”
But, before we get into the seemingly random divisions attempted on the law, let’s begin by way of definition as to what the Law is.