Monday, May 3, 2010
A Disturbing Observation
I have noticed recently that there are a growing number of Christians who are falling into a trap that was settled in the first century by the Apostles and early church leaders. I am noticing an increasing fascination with and even a practice of the Jewish Law system. I notice it on religious programming and in churches. It is almost as if people are once again being fooled into believing that you must first become Jewish in order to become Christian. I was recently asked if I thought that our spiritual connection to God was affected by whether or not we followed the Old Testament dietary laws.
This was settled in Acts 15. Many in the early church were confused as to where to draw the line between Judaism and Christianity and so, a Church Council was called to discuss the matter. This meeting involved all the Apostles and many "elders" or leaders within the Christian church. There were those who felt that Gentile (non-Jewish) converts to Christianity needed to keep the law of circumcision for males, dietary laws, purity laws, ceremonial laws of cleansing and ritualistic observance of festivals and the like. The Apostles (who spoke for God and with God's authority...) disagreed and said that it was not necessary for them to become Jewish in order to become Christian. All that mattered was that they placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and lived out their faith. Issue settled, right?
It seemed like many leaders had a hard time letting go of tradition so that even the likes of Peter had a hard time accepting that he could eat anything and that the Gentiles were equal heirs in the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ, yet even he eventually came to accept the truth and even called the Church the "Israel of God" which showed he had fully made the transition.
Yet, today I see over and over where many teachers are giving the Old Testament precedence over the New. Dispensational heresies are notorious for this. (If you don't know what Dispensational theology is just think "Left Behind, John Hagee, etc...") So, today there is once again confusion about the place of the Old Testament. Jesus summarized the Old Testament nicely "the Law and the prophets they testify to me..." The point of the Old Testament was to point us to Christ by progressively revealing God's will for his Kingdom. Once we get to Jesus Christ, that Revelation is completed. (Kind of sounds like a Book "The Revelation of Jesus Christ" that was written as the conclusion to all Scripture.) So anything that the Old Testament teaches is to point us to Christ. The New Testament is primary, the Old Testament is secondary. The New Testament re-interprets the Old.
Lets make this clear. We are not under the Old Testament system of ritualistic or ceremonial law. It is OK to eat pork. It is OK to shave your beard if you are man. You are not unclean because you have a blemish on your skin. There are not secret messages hidden in the text of the Hebrew letters. And the Church (those who belong to Christ) is God's chosen people in this world. The Moral Law (think 10 commandments) is still in effect because it revealed God's character and Jesus imported them into the New Testament understanding of God's Kingdom.
No longer was God's Kingdom centered around an ethnic race of people and the temple that was in their chief city. Now it is centered on the man Jesus Christ, his sacrifice on the cross, and his resurrection three days later. The people of God are no longer identified by a mark in the flesh (circumcision) but by Faith in the Living, Resurrected man Jesus Christ that results in being filled with God's Holy Spirit, which results in circumcision of the heart. Therefore, there is no reason to move backwards by observing feasts, festivals, and ceremonial laws. Our identity is completely wrapped up in Jesus Christ and not in religious practices. Commit your life to Jesus Christ and give up dead works of the law and you will rise Above Reality.