• Christian Living,  Law,  Old Testament

    The Heart of the Law is the Heart

    Christians often view biblical law negatively. It is often viewed as diametrically opposed to the freedom we have through grace. Many Christians think that the Old Testament was primarily concerned with external obedience, whereas the New Testament is concerned with matters of the heart. However, a careful examination of the tone of the Law indicates that it is not to be viewed as something incongruent with the character of the New Testament Christian. When reading the Law, one quickly sees that the Law emphasized the necessity of complete heartfelt obedience, not merely external obedience to a checklist. Consider Deuteronomy 10:12-13: Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?…

  • Law,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    Paul’s Use of Leviticus in 1 Corinthians

    Leviticus is notoriously the place where year-long Bible reading programs die. Many a well-intentioned Christian has struggled and ultimately failed to get through Leviticus. The laws in Leviticus just seem so strange to the modern reader! Laws about sacrifices, washings, menstruation, and leprosy. These are strange concepts for the Western reader to think about. Yet, we deprive ourselves of a valuable resource if we ignore Leviticus. Leviticus has always been viewed as a foundational book for the Jewish people, and it was used significantly by Jesus and the Apostles in giving instruction to the church. The Prevalence of Leviticus in the New Testament In support of the assertion that Jesus and the Apostles relied heavily on Leviticus it may interest the reader to know that, according to the Loci Citati Vel Allegati in the 28th edition of Nestle Aland’s Greek New Testament, there are at least ninety-four specific Leviticus passages…

  • Christian Living,  Law,  Old Testament

    Should Christians Keep the Sabbath?

    Historically, many Christians have assumed that it is a Christian obligation to keep the Sabbath. Both the Westminster Confession of Faith and the London Baptist Confession of Faith include language which obligates Christians to observe the Sabbath. Although both of these confessions move the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, they both are adamant that keeping the Sabbath is an obligation on all of humanity. But, is keeping the Sabbath for today? In order to answer that question, we need to discuss what the Sabbath was along with its purpose. What did the Sabbath look like? The Sabbath was observed each and every Saturday and was to be a day of rest for Israel. They were prohibited from doing extraneous work. A good summary of the prohibition is found in Deuteronomy 5:14: “You shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    When Did God Establish the Sabbath Command?

    There are many questions a New Testament believer is faced with when thinking through the Sabbath. For example, why was Israel commanded to keep the Sabbath? This is perhaps the most important question, and as I have written elsewhere, I believe the purpose of the Sabbath command was to give visible demonstration of the fact that Yahweh is Creator and Redeemer. When Israel kept the Sabbath, they were demonstrating that, as Creator, God had the right to dictate how one is to function in the created world. But another important question arises concerning the timing of the Sabbath. When did God institute the Sabbath? Did the Sabbath predate Moses? Evidence for a Pre-Decalogue Sabbath Some theologians argue that the Sabbath has always been an obligation for mankind since creation. To arrive at this conclusion, some have appealed to passages like Genesis 26:5 which says Abraham obeyed the voice of Yahweh,…

  • Ethics,  Law,  Old Testament

    You Shall Not Bear False Witness

    The ninth commandment prohibits bearing false witness (Exod 20:16). In many Christian circles this prohibition ends up simply being summarized as, “Don’t lie.” But there is a depth behind the ninth commandment that goes beyond just how we speak. The ninth commandment is intended to promote an entire lifestyle. Most people understand the prohibition against bearing false witness as a simple prohibition against speaking falsehood, yet this commandment is centered in a very specific context. The language which is used in this commandment centers around the legal setting in a court case. In Israel, as with the rest of the ancient Near East, a witness was essential to ensuring justice was carried out. In fact, the penalties for many ancient Near Eastern civilizations were harsh for any witness that construed the facts wrongly. Death was even a possible consequence for a false witness. On the other hand, some civilizations prized…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    You Shall Not Steal—Respecting Ownership

    In the series of Ten Commandments, the 8th commandment often seems very simplistic. However, like the other commandments, the commandment, “You shall not steal” has an entire theology behind it. As we have seen in other commandments, one way we can helpfully discern the principle behind a commandment is to reverse it. If we reverse the negative command to a positive command we could summarize the prohibition “You shall not steal” as follows: You must respect the right of lordship in the created order. Lordship carries the ideas of authority and ownership. A man is the lord of his household, and a boss is the lord of his company. In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve did not respect God’s lordship in His right to withhold the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They took, they sinned. In addition to the concept of lordship in the…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    God’s Design for Sexual Purity in the Law

    The seventh commandment is a well known part of the Ten Commandments, partially due to its brevity, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exod 20:14). Sexual purity is often viewed by the culture as an outdated ethic, but the concept of purity has an even greater significance today as the culture fails model any semblance of purity, duty, or devotion. If there was ever an appropriate discussion for the current generation of Americans it has to do with the seventh commandment. The theological reality behind the seventh commandment is purity. Purity has the idea of being unmixed. In the case of adultery, a husband or wife is not completely devoted to his or her spouse. Adultery is the absence of complete devotion. In adultery there is a mixing of different desires and lusts. The absence of purity (i.e., unmixed devotion) is why Israel is commonly condemned in the prophets. Israel is…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    The Law and the Sanctity of Life

    When thinking about the issue of the sanctity of life, the Law is a welcome teacher. When one explores the Ten Commandments, one quickly realizes that there is a depth and profundity to them that extends beyond mere prohibitions. After all the laws themselves embody principles which reflect God’s character and His design for creation. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the command “You shall not murder” is a guideline for acting in light of the sanctity of human life. The Sanctity of Human Life in Matthew 5 An illustration of the depth of the sixth commandment, and its relationship to the sanctity of human life is found in Matthew 5:21-26. Some people think that Jesus is changing the Law in this passage and raising the standard. However, Jesus is simply redirecting people from a narrow view of the Law to the true purpose of the Law. This…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    Connecting God’s Authority and Human Authority

    Within the Ten Commandments, commandments 1-4 deal with God’s relationship with man, a vertical component; and commandments 5-10 deal with man’s relationship with man, a horizontal component. The fifth commandment specifically is a bridge which connects the authority of God with human authority. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. Exodus 20:12 God’s Delegated Authority The essence of the fifth commandment is that God has created the world and has designed authority structures inherent within it. Thus, Israel is to respect those authority structures. The most foundational and important of which is the parent-child relationship. A good way to illustrate that this commandment is broadening its scope beyond just parent-child relationships is to examine Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy’s structure is in the form of a suzerain-vassal treaty, which contains general stipulations (Deut 5-11) and specific stipulations (Deut…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    The Purpose of the Sabbath Commandment

    The Sabbath commandment is the subject of many controversial debates. Those who hold to the Ten Commandments as the standard of God’s moral law have difficulty explaining how this commandment fits into that system because the command to keep the Sabbath does not have a moral nature intrinsic to it. We need to remember that the Ten Commandments are not a moral standard. Rather, they are specific applications of creation principles that are built into the fabric of creation. Further evidence that this command is not inherently moral is a comparison of Exodus and Deuteronomy. Note that both texts discuss the Sabbath command differently. Exodus 20:8-11 Deuteronomy 5:12-15 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son…