Monday, May 17, 2010

Jesus, Paul and the Law

I received this anonymous comment on one of my blogs:

I am currently holding a discussion with a Jew who accuses Christians of lawlessness. I as a Sabbathkeeper thought I could do a better job of witnessing to him than Sunday keepers. NOT SO! He says that no Christian church is doing the right thing. He says that Matthew 5:17-19 is teaching the keeping of the whole Torah & the chuch is simply not obeying this command of Yeshua!

I then quoted Paul in Col 2:14-16 saying that the ceremonial laws have been done away with. He didn't appreciate that & thinks that Paul is a heretic who should be discarded. I said that is impossible as there'd be no Christian church w/o Paul taking the gospel to the Gentiles.

I simply do not believe that Paul would OPPOSE Jesus.

So what is the truth about him & Matthew 5:17-19?

Excellent question, and it is a difficult issue.

The way I understand it, and how the early church decided it, is that Jesus' statement to keep every minute aspect of the law applies to only those who were born under the law. If we were not born under the burden of the law, then we should not be saddled with it, even though we are following Jesus. It is enough that we are following the law of Jesus. We are not antinomian if we are following the law of Jesus and not the law of Moses.

Your Jewish friend might argue that to follow the whole law of Jesus includes this one which tells us to follow every jot and tittle. However, Jesus said that the law would not pass away until "it is all accomplished." Well, Jesus DID accomplish the whole of the law, thus, the law has passed away.

History confirms this. At this point, it is not possible to obey every jot and tittle of the law. There is no Temple, no priesthood, there are no Levites. We cannot tithe properly, according to the law. We cannot sacrifice, according to the law. We cannot make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, according to the Law. And who is going to bring back stoning of the adulterers or the rebellious sons? There is not a single person alive who can obey every jot and tittle of the law. And that has been true since 70AD.

Why is this? Because, first, Jesus fulfilled the law and so we, in Him, have the law fulfilled. Secondly, because the authorities of the Law-- the priests and the elders-- are the ones who declared the innocent Son of God to be a liar and a blasphemer and to be worthy of death. They defiled all the temple, all the priesthood, all the sanhedrin, and so they were unworthy to obey. They continued to persecute and martyr the innocent, and so God destroyed these institutions, even as He did in the sixth century BC. And He has chosen not to revive them.

This is not to say that the current Jewish fulfilling of the law, or yours my friend, is a sin. Absolutely not. It is a positive discipline. But let no one deceive themselves into thinking that they are obeying the law better than one who only obeys Jesus without concern for Moses. No one CAN fulfill the law of Moses today. Most Sabbath keepers recognize that they are only keeping part of the Mosaic law, not the whole. Jewish rabbis recognize that they are only obeying as much of the law as they can, praying instead of sacrificing, but that they are following the oral Torah, not the written, because they are unable to follow the written. Yet Jesus was talking about following the written, not the oral, even as he mentioned the actual writing.

We can only shake our heads and recognize that we are weak, living in the midst of a weak world. We cannot obey God as we please, as it seems necessary to us. Rather, we must fall upon the mercy of God, and ask for His pardon. Then, in the grace of Jesus, we stand up in the Spirit and love God and love our neighbor with all that we have. And in this, we are obeying the whole of the law.

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