Two Viewpoints of Law
Exodus 20-23 contains quite a few "laws." From a traditional viewpoint of THE LAW in the Bible, LAW usually receives a BAD RAP. Here are some of the well-known POPULAR ideas.
a. The "laws" in the Old Testament are "outdated," "superseded," "irrelevant,"
"contrary to the New Testament."
b. Jesus and Paul CLEARLY teach that GOD'S LAWS in the OLD TESTAMENT are contrary to the teachings of the New Testament--BECAUSE:
i. The Old Testament teaches that human beings can be saved by human works, but the New Testament teaches the human beings can be saved ONLY by God's grace and love.
Jesus said: "The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Paul said: "We know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 2:16). [Here, I trust it is not necessary to "multiple" New Testament texts on this matter].
ii. The Old Testament teaches that people are saved by performing "external acts" of religion, but the New Testament teaches that human beings must be saved by "internal attitudes of heart" which produce God-like lives following the example of Jesus Christ. Thus, spiritual circumcision is superior to and replaces physical circumcision (Romans 2:25-29).
c. Law exposes a sinful person and makes that person guilty, but does not have the power to "save" that person. Romans 7:7-25.
Here are a few INTERMEDIATE considerations.
a. IF anyone REALLY believes that the teachings of the Old Testament do not apply to Christian life today, then that person should NEVER appeal to ANY Old Testament text for godly living and Christianity. Why even have the Old Testament at all?
b. Jesus, Paul, and other New Testament speakers and writers CLAIM that the Old Testament is the authoritative WORD OF GOD, and thus Christians should live according to these teachings. Matthew 5:17-20; Romans 7:12; 2 Timothy 3:14-17. [There are MANY other New Testament texts teaching this].
c. The Old Testament teaches the VERY TRUTHS that the above-mentioned New Testament texts cite in opposition to them. For example, Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; 9:25-26 teach and emphasize that "circumcision" acceptable to God is a "circumcision" of the heart, NOT simply physical "circumcision."
d. There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between Jesus and Paul and other New Testament teachers and writers OPPOSING "incorrect" or "wrong" or "misled" Jewish teachers and people ABOUT the Old Testament and the ACTUAL teachings of the Old Testament. Hence, the teachings of the Old and New Testaments are "harmonious," not "contradictory."
What DOES the Old Testament TEACH about God's LAW or God's instructions? Here are a few important teachings.
1. There is an important "sequence" leading up to God's "laws" beginning with the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3-17.
a. God enters into a "covenant," an intimate, daily, personal "relationship" with his people Israel. God is like a husband, Israel is like a wife. God is like a parent, Israel is like a child. The metaphors go on and on. In Exodus 6:7, God says: "I will take you as MY PEOPLE, and I will be YOUR GOD." Exodus 20:2 re-emphasizes this in preparation for the ten commandments that follows. The possessive words "my" and "your" underline this intimate relationship between God and his people. In Exodus 19:5, God says to the Israelites: You are "my treasured possession," like a "bride" or "wife" endeared by a husband.
b. Next, God reminds the Israelites that he had just recently brought them out oft he land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Exodus 20:2). God performed mighty acts in behalf of his chosen people BEFORE he every gave them any commandments. God's relationship with Israel and God's mighty acts in behalf of Israel happen BEFORE he gives his laws. Hence, God does not give his people LAWS IN ORDER TO bring them into salvation and into relationship with God. The Bible teaches the reverse. God's laws are the natural OUTFLOW or RESULT of an already established relationship with God's people.
2. Read carefully the ATTITUDE toward God's laws in the Old Testament--AND in the New Testament. Here are a few introductory passages.
a. God's law is like a "light" or a "lamp." Psalm 119:105, 130.
b. God's law is like "honey." Psalm 119:103.
c. God's law is like "gold." Psalm 119:72, 127.
d. God's law is like "streams of water" that sustain trees and enable them to yield their fruit. Psalm 1:1-3.
Do all these texts sound like God's laws are a burden or negative or degrading or opposing to human life?
3. The Bible consistently admonishes human beings to "meditate on," "delight in," "treasure," "cling to," "revere," "hope in," and "love" God's law. Read Psalms
1; 19; 119. Do all these verbs suggest that according to the Bible, God's laws are a burden, negative, opposed to God, and the like?
4. Now, turn to the New Testament. And think of 1 John 5:2-3:
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when welove God and OBEY HIS COMMANDMENTS. For the love of God is this, that we OBEY HIS COMMANDMENTS. AND HIS COMMANDMENTS ARE NOT BURDENSOME."
There is a huge difference between the biblical teaching of God's laws and human perceptions of what the Bible teaches about God's laws. How about "re-thinking" this issue.
Tell me what you think? How do you feel about God's commandments? God's laws? Discuss this matter with your friends, your family, your church, your community. Give me your ideas.