The next installment of ‘Reading my email…’ Part 1 explains what this is about and why I am posting it… As before, the names are redacted or changed to protect the innocent…
Thank you for your email. I would love to sit down over a cup of coffee and discuss the changes wrought in my beliefs. In an effort to further clarify exactly what I am seeing and my concerns, I will record some of them here so that you may share it with the Committee or any other person(s) of interest.
I had not read The Standards [note: Essentially, The Westminster Confession of Faith] in a while and I appreciate your recommending that action. Following is a direct quote with my current thoughts. There are other similar quotes with attendant complications when held to the light of Holy Scripture.
From Chapter XIX, Of the Law of God:
III. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances; partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits;d and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties.e All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament.f
d Heb. 9; Heb. 10:1; Gal. 4:1-3; Col. 2:17.
e I Cor. 5:7; II Cor. 6:17; Jude 23.
f Col. 2:14, 16-17; Dan. 9:27; Eph. 2:15-16.
The bold statement above declares all ceremonial laws are abrogated. Jesus, in Matthew 5:17-19 says, “Think not that I came to abolish the law or the prophets: I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of these least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Further, the Scriptures used to support this statement in the Standards in no way say any part of God’s Law, ceremonial or otherwise, has been abrogated. Consider:
In Colossians 2, Paul is primarily addressing philosophy, empty deception and traditions of men. Notice the context of the chapter.
V. 4 I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive arguments.
V. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
V. 18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of angels…. (more traditions of men)…
So, what does v. 14 say? “..Christ canceled the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us…” Please notice the Greek word ‘dogma’ here translated as ‘decrees’. Paul nowhere ever uses this word to refer to the Law of God. Rather, the few times it is used in Scripture, both New and Old Testament, it is always referring to the decrees of men, be they kings (multiple LXX uses in Daniel, Luke 2:1) or Apostles (Acts 16:4 & 17:7). Simply, the Commandments of God are not and never have been the ‘traditions of men’ or ‘empty deception.’
What Paul is saying in verse 16, when he says, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day- things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” is NOT ‘let no one judge you in skipping these things’ rather he is saying, ‘Let no one judge you in HOW you celebrate these things.’ Paul, like Jesus, (remember I Cor. 11:1-2, “Follow me as I follow Christ… ..holding to the traditions I delivered to you”) is teaching against the traditions of the Judaizers who piled extra requirements on everything. Please read Mark 7 and Matthew 15 for one example of Jesus addressing the oral tradition of handwashing, nowhere mentioned in the Law of Moses.
Does the Ephesians 2:15-16 passage agree? Interestingly, this is the only other use of the Greek word ‘dogma.’ Notice: (for context, I’ll add verse 14)
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
What exactly did Christ abolish? The Law of God? He, being the Living Word and perfect embodiment of the Law could not have abolished Himself. If we pay attention to the Greek, the word ‘dogma’ pops up again, here translated as ‘ordinances.’ Verse 14 tells us exactly what the ordinances are that were abolished when Paul points to the dividing wall that existed in the Temple to separate Gentile worshippers from the Jewish section of the Temple. Further, oral traditions prevented Jews from intermingling with Gentiles, see Acts 10, 11 and 15. Paul, in a passage about Gentiles now being brought near, members of the Commonwealth of Israel and recipients of the covenants, explains that one facet of the shed blood of Messiah is the destruction of the ordinances and decrees (doctrines of men) that separated Gentile from Jew thus making one new man.
Simply, it is supreme irony that these verses Paul penned about the abolishing of the traditions of men would be turned against the Law of God that is perfect (Ps. 19:7; Jam. 1:25), liberty (Ps. 119:45; Jam. 1:25), the way (Jos. 22:5; Ps. 119:1), truth (Ps. 119:142; Rom. 2:20); life (Prov. 6:23; Ps. 36:9), etc.
Paul is often falsely accused of denigrating or somehow reducing the requirements of the Law for Gentile believers. Nothing has changed in 1900 years. Peter in his Second Epistle, 3:14-18 says, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
In fact, Paul’s example is one of keeping the whole Law. See in context Acts 21:24; 24:14; 25;7-8, 11; 28:17-18. Notice he had to be falsely accused of breaking the Law of Moses. Notice he kept the feasts (Acts 20:6, 16; I Cor. 16:8). Notice he taught Gentiles to keep the Law, on the Sabbath, in the synagogue (Acts 15:21 James speaking, but Paul agreed with the judgment and delivered it to the assemblies.). Notice Paul agreed with the dietary Laws (Acts 15:20 and 28-29 which establish the minimum requirements for the new Gentile believers to fellowship with their elder Jewish brothers). If he kept the Law, then we need to be very careful of accusing him of saying otherwise, knowing that he, like Jesus, was in a constant battle against the oral laws and traditions of the Judaizers. Over and over we find that the context of the passages used against Paul point to something other than the Law of God. See I Tim. 4:4 in light of the previous verse, and Gal.4:10-11 in light of 8&9; and Titus 1:15 in light of 14, etc. etc. He teaches against the laws and decrees, the oral traditions of the Jews and false philosophies from the Greek Gnostics.
Does other Scripture agree with Paul’s keeping of the Law? Yes. The entire New Testament is loaded with evidence. A couple examples: The apostle John- I John 5:2-3; Peter- I Pe. 1:14-16 (notice where his quote comes from…); James- Jam. 2:8-26; Paul- Rom. 3:31; 6:1; 7:12, 22, 25; 8:7 among others.
As a note of clarification, many ‘ceremonial laws’ are not currently enforce because they require the presence of a High Priest and a Temple. Hebrews clearly articulates the ‘translation’ (7:12) of the priesthood to Jesus and His completed work of atonement, as well as the tabernacle now being the perfect one in Heaven. Ezekiel (40-48, see esp. 44:10 as an example) and Revelation (7:15) point to a future time with an active priesthood, presumably in the Millennial reign. So, to be clear, just because the ceremonial laws do not all apply today, does NOT mean they have been done away with. They simply do not apply; in the same manner, they did not apply while Judah was exiled to Babylon.
One of the big questions I have had to deal with is ‘what does it mean to be grafted in?’ We speak of being grafted in and refer to Romans 9 (not all Israel are physical Israel) and Romans 11 (we are wild olive branches grafted into the rich root), but we never follow the analogy Paul alludes to all the way to the end. Where does he get the idea of grafting in? He clearly understands because in Ephesians 2 he says we are the Commonwealth of Israel and in Galatians 6, the Israel of God. Where does this idea come from and what does it mean? My best solution is a phrase that pops up numerous times in the Old Testament and exhibited in Ruth (your people will be my people, your God my God, where you go, I go, where you die, I die). Throughout the books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy we see a phrase that is significant: ‘the alien/stranger who sojourns/dwells among you.’ Multiple times the Lord says that the Law or statute is to be for the native born and the alien. In at least one place the law is referred to as a perpetual law for all generations.
The perpetual nature of the Law applying to all who are Israel, those who are native as well as those grafted in, is seen in yet future passages of Scripture. Isaiah 66:17 & 23 clearly demonstrate dietary laws, feast and Sabbath keeping. Zechariah 14:16ff confirms the keeping of at least the Feast of Booths. Even the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 says the Law will be written on our hearts. (Interesting side note, while talking of grafting in, notice who the covenant is with and who it is not with. Where do we fit?)
As I stated in my first email, I fully affirm that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. I also believe that as His obedient children we are called to follow His commands and ‘house rules.’ Indeed, they are not too difficult (Deu. 30:11; I John 5:3), they are our loving response to our Creator (John 14:15).
Other related matters in The Standards, such as ‘expired’ in XIX, IV; ‘yoke of ceremonial law’ in XX, I (the ‘yoke’ Peter is talking about in Acts 15:10 is NOT the ceremonial law, else he would not have agreed to v. 20 & 21); XXI, VII (‘First day of the week’ is an idiomatic expression identifying a date, not a day of the week. Every use points to the ‘first of the Sabbaths’ between Unleavened Bread and Pentecost. See Lev. 23:15. Even the Acts 20:7 and I Cor. 16:2 & 8 use fall exactly in that timeframe while The Standards conveniently avoids Matt. 5:19 in its proof.)
Fathers and brothers, as I have studied I have been deeply grieved at the traditions I have been taught that do not line up with the Word of God. If His Word is inerrant, inspired and infallible, then I intend to pursue and teach the truth contained therein according to the context in which it was given. I can do nothing less.
I hold no one responsible for my walking in error. I should have dug more deeply years ago, but the advent of the internet and a relentless Father, even the weakest of us is without excuse. May God grant each of us a passion for the truth, no matter the cost.
I welcome questions and dialog with any individual or group.
FYI, late in my studies, once I had come to the above outlined conclusions, I stumbled across a website that effectively handles the most common objections with Scripture. Not having found anything on that site with which I disagree at this point, you can more deeply explore what I believe is truth. That site is www.TestEverything.net I would be interested in any reasonable rebuttal from our Father’s Holy Word.
May He bless and lead you in all Truth,
Re-reading this email after just finishing writing RT:Myths is particularly poignant… Behold the error of filtering Scripture through the doctrines of men instead of reading what the Word actually says. I’ll stop NOW before I get on a rant… lovingly, of course.
I pray these emails will help the reader in searching the Scriptures as a Berean to see if these things be so. Dig deep and seek for the Truth as Yahweh will impart to those who are relentless in their pursuit of His heart!
FYI: Third installment is here.