Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Spiritual Formation and The Law (pt. 2 Law Segmented)

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So you shall keep My commandments, and do them; I am the Lord. (Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible, Leviticus 22:31)

            What you have been taught by your church, denomination, upbringing, parents, or whatever your background, it will inform how you answer the question, “What is a Christian’s relationship to the Old Testament [OT] Law?”  Some denominations or groups have taught a segmenting of the OT Law into categories like judicial, ceremonial and moral laws.  They would perhaps argue that OT sacrifices and offerings (Lev. 1-7:38) are examples of ceremonial laws, but sexual relationship laws (Lev. 18) are moral.  They may reason that the same way the Articles of Confederation were superseded by the U.S. Constitution in 1789, ceremonial laws under the Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 19-24) were superseded by the ceremonial rite of the New Covenant (Lk. 22:20, Heb. 8).  They may then maintain that the moral laws of the Mosaic Covenant are still obligatory under the New Covenant.  This may be an example of ingrained theology, and if you were raised in a denomination or group that taught this, perhaps you’ve never questioned it.  Also, questioning such a position may quickly raise party loyalties, but since it will have a direct bearing on answering our question, “What is a Christian’s relationship to OT Laws?”, we must bring it up.

            A good starting point may be with the idea of segmenting the OT Laws into judicial, ceremonial and moral groups.  This is a feature found in the 16th century reformation, but does it reflect the mind set of New Testament authors?  In the first century, we know of a faction within the NT Church that thought that when Gentiles come to faith in Christ, they need to be circumcised according to the Mosaic Covenant (Acts 15:1).[1]  Regardless of if Paul wrote the book of Galatians before or after this Acts 15 council, he wrote that, “Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.  And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law” (Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible, 5:2-3).  Please understand that in the mind of the Judaizer, the proselyte undergoing circumcision was the initiation act to join the Covenant community, meaning an adaption of the Jewish lifestyle as a whole (Dunn, 265).

            In this passage, Paul’s use of language is an attempt to emphasis that he is speaking with full force, “I Paul say to you” (Witherington, 366).  And Paul’s argument is clear, if a person submits to this one ceremonial law, then they are obligated to observing the whole Law (Ibid.).

With such language, does it seem that Paul thought of the Law as being something that could be segmented?  Next week, we’ll examine the Old Testament. (Click Part 3)

Written by Pastor Ozzy

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Works Cited

Dunn, James D. G. 1993. The Epistle to the Galatians. Black’s New Testament Commentary. London: Continuum.
1995. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. LaHabra: The Lockman Foundation.
Witherington, Ben III. 1998. Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[1] Circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 17:11); however, in the Lucian text Moses as opposed to Abraham, is specifically referenced.

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