• Law,  Old Testament

    What Does it Mean to Take the Name of the Lord in Vain?

    The first commandment states that God is to be supreme above all of creation, nothing created is to be elevated to His position. The second commandment states that God is not to be brought down to the common level of creation. Together both commandments reflect the rightful position which God is to occupy. They function as two sides of the same coin. Unsurprisingly, the third commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exod 20:7), can only rightfully be applied when we understand the significance of the first two commandments. Because of who God is as Creator, we have a mandate to act in a certain way. The Traditional Understanding of Taking the Name of the Lord in Vain Growing up, I was always taught the primary reference of the third commandment was to our speech (i.e., we should not say “God” or “Jesus”…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    No Idol or Likeness—The Uncommon God (Exod 20:4-6)

    The first commandment stated that God is supreme above all things. The second commandment is, like the first commandment, also an application of the supremacy of the Creator. The first commandment applied the supremacy of God through mandating that nothing is to be treated as God. The theological reality which undergirds the second commandment is that God must never be brought down to creation status. So, together the first two commandments teach that nothing must ever be elevated to God’s rightful status as supreme object of our affection and worship; second, God must never be treated as common or as a part of creation. The second commandment, like the first, is rooted in Genesis 1. We see this clearly by the repetition of Genesis 1 language, “heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” This commandment focuses specifically upon making any representation of God…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    The Supremacy of God in the Commandments

    The Ten Commandments are one of the most beloved sections of Scripture. Even nonbelievers usually know at least a few of the Ten Commandments. However, often the commandments are misunderstood or misapplied. Thus, we will take this opportunity to go through the Ten Commandments and make some important observations. Of great importance is understanding that the first commandment is foundational for the rest of the Ten Commandments. When God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod 20:3), He is demanding exclusive worship. This exclusive worship is unsurprising, because the theological foundation of the Ten Commandments assumes the uniqueness of God and His divine role as Creator. Notice that the word, “LORD,” is not present in this command. The Lord is mentioned by name (“LORD”, יהוה) throughout Exodus 20 (vv. 5, 7, 10, 11, 12), yet here the focus is on God in relation to His status as…

  • Hermeneutics,  Law,  Old Testament

    To Boil or Not to Boil: Exod 12:8-9 and Deut 16:7 in Contradiction?

    Many people constantly accuse the Bible of having contradictions within it. One such alleged contradiction is in regard to the command not to boil the Passover lamb. In Exodus 12:8-9, Israel is forbidden to eat any of the lamb raw or to boil it in water. Similarly, in Deuteronomy 16:5-7, Moses’ instructions on eating the Passover include the command to cook it and eat it. Although the apparent contradiction is not present in many English translations, the issue is that the Hebrew of Exodus 12:8-9 says not to “boil [מְבֻשָּׁל] in water,” while Deuteronomy 16:7 uses the same verb while saying, “boil [וּבִשַּׁלְתָּ] and eat.” So the same verb (“to boil,” בשׁל) is used in both verses, but seemingly in contradiction. In Exodus 12:9 Israel is told not to בשׁל (boil) the meat. But in Deuteronomy 16:7 they are told to בשׁל (boil) it. Are these two passages a contradiction?…

  • Law,  New Testament

    Paul was (sometimes) against Circumcision

    In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas were involved in one of the biggest controversies of the early church. The issue was whether or not someone could be a Christian without circumcision. After much discussion, the Jerusalem Council affirmed the message of Peter and Paul, that God’s grace extends to Gentiles as Gentiles. In other words, circumcision was deemed as unnecessary to be a part of the church. This decision was confirmed by Paul in Galatians 5:2-3, 6: 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…. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. Earlier in Galatians Paul recounts how certain Jews compelled Titus to be circumcised (Gal 2:3). Yet, Paul would not…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    Following the Principle of the Law

    We have looked previously at the clear testimony of Scripture that the believer’s relationship to the Mosaic Law has drastically changed. In fact, because the Mosaic Law was tied to the Mosaic Covenant, when the Mosaic Covenant passed away, the believer was no longer under the Law (cf. Gal 5:18). But, yet we see Paul and the other Apostles constantly being influenced by and appealing to the Law. How can this be?   It stands to reason that although the Law is no longer binding, this does not mean there is no more usefulness to the Mosaic Law. In fact, I would argue that the Mosaic Law retains its didactic purpose and helps instruct mankind how to live in light of the creation principles. In other words, the Law stops functioning as a law code, but it retains its pedagogical function, giving the Christian insight into the character of the…

  • Christian Living,  Law,  Old Testament

    Does the Old Testament Law Apply Today?

    How does a Christian apply the Old Testament Law today? This is a bit of a complicated question. Given the fact that the Law reflects creation principles, we should not be surprised that it remains relevant. Indeed, Scripture unequivocally teaches the positive role of the Mosaic Law in the life of the Christian. “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law” (Rom 3:31) “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom 7:12) On the other hand, there are also clear Scripture passages which indicate the believer’s relationship to the Mosaic Law has drastically changed. “Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17) “You are not under the law but under grace” (Rom 6:14) “Christ is the end of the law” (Rom 10:4) “But if you are…

  • Law,  New Testament

    How Did Jesus Fulfill the Law? (Matt 5:17-18)

    What does it mean that Christ came to fulfill the Law? In Matthew 5:18 Jesus promises, “Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” The KJV translates this verse as, “one jot or one tittle shall no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” The “jot” is likely referring to the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the yodh, which looks like ” י “. The “tittle” is probably referring to the part of the Hebrew letter which differentiated nearly identical letters. For example, the difference between ר and ד is only the smallest stroke at the upper right part of the letter. Apparently, some people were questioning Jesus’ motives in His early ministry. In Matthew 5:17 He begins correcting the people who were supposing that He was attempting to subvert or abolish the Law and/or the prophetic…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    The Law as a Reflection of Creation Principles

    In a previous post I discussed the purpose of the Law. One of the purposes of the Law was to reflect God’s creation to a watching world. In other words, Israel was given laws that, when obeyed, showed the world what the creation ideal looked like. The connection of creation to the Law is worth examining in greater detail. The easiest way to see this connection is to examine some of the Ten Commandments (the heart of Israel’s Law code) and note their connections to creation principles. First Commandment: No Other Gods (Exod 20:3; cf. Deut 5:7) Although some of the following commandments have explicit ties to the creation narrative, the link between the first commandment and creation is implicit in its theology. The demand for exclusive worship is inherently tied to the belief that God is the Creator. Since God is the only Creator, He demands exclusive and unrivaled…

  • Law,  Old Testament

    The Purpose of the Old Testament Law

    In a prior post, I mentioned that the Law needs to be read in its narrative context. In addition to being sensitive to the narrative context, we also need to evaluate the purpose of the Old Testament Law as it is portrayed in the Old Testament itself. This is an important first step in helping understand the differences that we see between the Old and New Testaments. The Law was never a means of salvation First, we need to adimently reaffirm that the Law is not portrayed as a standard for salvation. It is common for people to accuse dispensationalists of believing the Law was the means of salvation for Israel. I have spoken against this on multiple occasions, but if you are looking for an in depth treatment on the subject, John Feinberg wrote an excellent article on salvation in the Old Testament. Additionally, as I argued previously, the…