Following is the beginning of a terrific article by friend and fellow blogger, Peter Vest, about Wheaton College Professor of Old Testament, Daniel I. Block’s essay entitled “Preaching Old Testament Law to New Testament Christians.”
Stop the Press! Mainline Christian Scholars Beginning to Promote the Torah of Moses
What follows are my notes on Daniel I. Block’s essay entitled “Preaching Old Testament Law to New Testament Christians.” I just read this today and was astounded that a Christian would be promoting the Torah of Moses to fellow Christians. And not just any Christian but he happens to be a professor of the Old Testament at Wheaton College. Friends, this is G-d at work in Christendom, changing it into something new. Enjoy:
Block claims to have figured out why Christians believe the Torah is not relevant. They think it’s a bunch of boring rituals made obsolete by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, laws that are hopelessly out of date and inapplicable to modern times, unduly harsh laws that are grossly inferior to the “law of love” announced by Jesus, encrypted in an antiquated literary form that would be impossible to understand in our modern age, and representing a view of G-d that is objectionable to modern sensitivities.
But, he says, these misconceptions about the law arise from fundamental ideological and theological prejudices against Old Testament law. He first traces these prejudices to the 2nd century heretic Marcion proclaimed a radical discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments, Israel and the Church, the G-d of the Old Testament and the G-d of the New. Then he identifies three current streams of prejudice: the antipathy resulting from the Lutherian law-gospel contrast, the dispensational idea that the church age with its dispensation of grace is fundamentally different from the Israel age with its dispensation of law, and, finally, the New Covenant Theology rooted in Reformed Theolgoy which says that Mosaic Covenant ended when Christ instituted the New Covenant.
Because of these misconceptions and interpretive traditions, most preachers don’t preach from the Old Testament but if they do they say that the Law is irrelevant for three reasons: (1) the atoning work of Jesus Christ liberated us from the “curse of the law” (Rom. 3:21; 6:14; 7:4; 10:4; Gal. 2:19-21; 3:23-26; 4:21-31; Heb. 7:12); (2) the word telos in Rom 10:4 is taken to mean “termination” of the law; (3) Christians pick and choose the laws they feel they should keep by differentiating between ceremonial, civil, and moral laws. Block points out that no attention is given to the option of theonomy which views the Old Testament law as fundamentally in force even for the church.
These interpretive traditions he considers remarkable given that Jesus declared the permanent validity of the Law in Matthew 5:17-20 and in light of His declaration that love for Him is demonstrated first and foremost by keeping His commands (John 14:15; 15:10). Also by Paul’s assertion that it’s the doers of the law who will be justified (Rom. 2:13).
Next, he questions how Christians can read “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17) as an assertion that Mosaic law is not a requirement but rather as an “optional sourcebook for optional lessons.”
So then Block attempts to dispel the misconceptions and antipathy by examining the nature of the Law, the literary context of it, and what the law meant to the “Old Testament Saints.”
How did the genuinely pious in Israel, the “Old Testament Saints”, understand the Law? He provides several answers: (1) they perceived obedience to the laws, not as a precondition to salvation but rather as the grateful response of those who had already been saved; (2) they perceived obedience to the law as an expression of covenant relationship–obey the voice of G-d; (3) they perceived obedience to the law as a precondition to achieving the mission to which they’d been called and the precondition to receiving blessing. The first point he says is highlighted in Exodus 19:5-6: if Israel will keep G-d’s covenant and obey His voice then she will be G-d’s special treasure, His kingdom of priests, His holy nation (Deut. 26:16-19). The second point is spelled out in Lev. 26:1-13 and Deut. 28:1-4; (4) being able to hear what the G-d of Israel wanted was considered a unique privilege compared to the gods of the nations who didn’t speak. They were thankful to know with clarity and confidence what G-d wanted for their lives; (5) they perceived true obedience to the law to be the external expression of an inward disposition of fear and faith in G-d and love for G-d; (6) they perceived the laws holistically, viewing all of life as under the authority of the divine suzerain. Whereas many Christians think of the Torah as divisible according to moral, civil, and ceremonial, this classification fails to appreciate the nature and organization of the laws themselves. Thus, they never questioned “which” laws to keep but rather “how” to keep the laws;
My thoughts after reading the whole article:
I am not in the least surprised that a scholar of this magnitude is ‘getting it.’ It is very clear to me that we are on the edge of a major paradigm shift that will radically divide Christendom into those who walk as the Messiah did/does and those who turn to apostasy. There will be a VERY clear division with the former being persecuted unto death by the latter.
All around me I find over and over people who know that they are missing something in the church and the Father, by His Spirit, has led them to the Torah and the ancient paths. I fully expect this trend to accelerate, though the ones who truly take the plunge will still remain as only a remnant.
These are the Days of Elijah… (Do you know what that means?)