The Law, Morality, and Knowledge of Good and Evil

(Here’s one of the unorganized posts I warned you about in an earlier post…)

God never wanted the Law

Story illustrating God didn’t want Law in chapter 4 of “Imagine” by Andre Rabe
“Marriage is meant for intimacy and enjoyment – suspicion and distance undermine the very purpose of marriage. One can never replace the spontaneity and freedom of being in love, with formality and obligation and still maintain the same quality of relationship.
Let’s imagine a scenario in which a husband and wife have had a fight, and seeing that it’s just a fantasy, lets say it’s all the wife’s fault! The husband tries to converse, but the situation is so tender that the wife can’t face any further confrontation. Silence and distance become her only escape.
Through the days and weeks that follow the situation only gets worse and this results in a separation. The husband observes his wife sinking into a pit of depression but she is not willing to face him or converse with him. However the husband still loves his wife and believes that the relationship can be restored, so he makes a practical interim arrangement. In order to prevent her from falling into absolute destitution and despair, he commits to support her and provide for her if she keeps to some basic and reasonable obligations. For instance: remain faithful to him, no other lovers allowed! Very reasonable. A few other ‘boundaries’ are agreed – about 10 in all. All this is done for her protection.
The only thing these arrangements are supposed to reveal, is that the husband still believes that the relationship can be saved. These arrangements were never meant to replace the original intimate relationship. They were only put in place for her protection and provision until the original relationship is restored. By no means can this situation compete or compare with the spontaneous, intimate relationship they once enjoyed.
And something terrible happens in this arrangement: It gives validity to the distance! The very distance that needs to be destroyed, finds an opportunity within this temporary arrangement to make itself legitimate. This new law-system gives validity to the distance!
And the wife, instead of trying to find a fundamental solution to the problem, now hides behind the fact that she is keeping the rules and therefore deserves the provision. She actually finds this new system very convenient, because she does not have to deal with her husband directly. She feels justified in keeping the rules, and even when she breaks the rules there are ways of correcting the situation without direct contact with him. Her hearts grows even harder!” – Andre Rabe

Law not given by God but by angels to Moses, then Moses to the people

I first believed (as my parents taught me) that God wanted to give the Law and he indeed give the Law. Later, I came to understand that actually, God didn’t want to give the Law, but he did so reluctantly as a kind of compromise (as you explained). Currently, I’m of the opinion that God may have communicated some parts of the Law but that he did not do so in its entirety. Part of the reason for that is the violence inherent in some laws. Another is because I don’t believe the scriptures are inspired in the way most christians would define inspiration. I wrote a series about inspiration on the blog, and actually one of the posts deals with the topic of the Law specifically. I point out a number of scriptures that seem to indicate that the Law was in fact not given by God (at least in its entirety). You can read it here: https://supernaturalgospel.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/what-does-biblical-inspiration-mean-really-part-5/

Temples, priests, sacrifice, prophets, seers, kings and laws (even specific ones) were not unique to Israel by any means.

“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.” (Galatians 3:19-20).
Acts 7:52-53
Hebrews 2:2-3
“The moral standards by which Israel’s first ancestors were expected to act seem to come not so much by God’s unique commandment but by expectations of the surrounding cultures. The behavior of Israel’s ancestors is not a matter of direct revelation by God, but of the accepted cultural norms of the day.

In John 8:17 and 10:34 Jesus refers to the Law as “your [the Pharisee’s] Law” and not “our Law,” thus refusing to identify with their way of thinking.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person…” (Matthew 5:38-39; Jesus is directly quoting Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21). Here Jesus gives ways of living that are opposite to that of the Law. “You have heard it said…But I tell you…” In essence, Jesus is saying that he did not say that part of the Law and is now telling them what he really thinks (as opposed to what they thought he, that is God, was saying). After all, if the Law was perfect (which it would be if it was given by Jesus), Jesus would have no need to correct it and show a better way.

This raises the question: was the Law really given by God? An answer of “no” is what Paul seems to imply in Galatians 3:19-20. “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.” Even if the original was given by God, what if the human and angelic elements modified it in the process of transmission and transcription?

Jesus seems to imply this in Mark 10:2-5. “Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.'” Jesus makes it sound very much like Moses was not only the writer but also the author of this commandment. “Moses permitted [it],” not God.

Law

Is saying “this is grace and that is law” eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil?

Connection between conscience and tree of knowledge of good and evil
They didn’t have a conscience (consciousness of sins; see Hebrews) before eating of that tree.

“Grace cannot prevail until law is dead…until morality has been bound, gagged, and stuffed unceremoniously in the trunk.” – Robert Capon

It’s interesting how there are many things that the world doesn’t feel guilty about that believers do. This makes me think that the guilt that believers experience in such areas is merely from the Christian culture surrounding them.

“Grace means that God does something for me; law means that I do something for God.” – Watchman Nee

Undutifully fulfill your duty

The only times Paul mentioned the Law to the Gentile churches that he wrote to was when he needed to emphasize its unnecessity in our new lives in Christ. Most of the time he simply didn’t mention it at all.

The fear of not preaching and requiring Law: without Law, the only motivator becomes desire based on joy, not fear. Law followers know nothing of desire, only fear. That’s why they can’t trust getting rid of the Law. “People will start sinning because that’s what they desire!”
We don’t want to be led by our feelings, but we want to be led by our new and holy desires. The distinction is important and it takes lots of trust in what Jesus did and is in you.

“The Law revealed the sin in you. The Gospel reveals the Son in you.” – Jeff Turner

The meaning of God putting his Law on our hearts isn’t getting a conscience or consciousness of sins but the divine nature of naturally desiring that which brings life, what the Law pointed to.

Test to see if you are legalistic: Think about what you would think and feel (or actually try it out if you’re not sure) if you stopped reading the Bible, stopped going to church, quit having set times for prayer, etc. If there is any fear, guilt, shame, or condemnation, then you are legalistic.

The moral principle of the Law (love) is still true, but we don’t derive our morality from the Law anymore. We don’t ever need to read it to know how to live morally because we have Holy Spirit as our guide.

The Law is a part of the Old Covenant which is now obsolete; Hebrews 8:13.

Living by Law is slavery (Galatians 5:1)

Hebrews 7:11-2, 18-19, 9:10, 10:1 (All of Hebrews lol)

Ephesians 2:15

Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
In this new covenant, good and evil are things we sense, not figure out through the Law. It’s in our hearts.

Galatians 3:24-25
The Law was our tutor that led us to Christ, but no longer

“Grace and sin can coexist, but grace and legalism can never coexist.” – Jeff Turner

2 Corinthians 3:6-18

Titus 3:9

The curse was a natural consequence of eating of the tree and of submitting to Satan. God wasn’t putting junk onto people – they chose it. Just like the Law.

“The fall didn’t change God; the fall changed you. The cross didn’t change God; the cross changed you.” – Jeff Turner

We know we are not justified by obedience to the Law (by the works of the law shall no man living be justified). But many Christians feel that they are still somehow bound to obedience to the Law.

To understand our prior and current relationship with the Law, it is important to know its purpose. Paul says that the Law given so that we would know our own sinfulness (Romans 7:7). When we try our best to follow the Law, we find that our efforts are futile. Thus God administrates his grace to us through the Law because it makes evident our need for a savior. God imposed an impossibility on us to reveal our self-insufficiency. It sheds light on the fundamental error made at the fall – that we could do life alone. The Law causes us to turn to Christ.

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56).
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” – John 1:17
“But we know that the law [is] good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for [the] lawless and insubordinate, for [the] ungodly and for sinners, for [the] unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,” – 1 Timothy 1:8-9

But what about after we have turned to Christ? Paul communicates a complete shift in our relationship with the Law that took place at the cross. We used to be joined to the Law; now we are joined to Christ (v. 1-4). We were bound to the Law; now we have been released (v. 6). We served in the oldness of the letter; we now serve in the newness of the Spirit (v. 6).
The law brought with it a curse; Christ has set us free from it
“Ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ”
“having abolished in his flesh the enmity, the law of commandments contained in ordinances”
“blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross”
“Christ is the end of the Law”

Ultimately the Law is good (v. 12). Yet it is through it that sinful passions are aroused in us (Romans 7:5). That’s why when, after believing in Jesus, we continue to make efforts to follow the Law we will inevitably fall into sin. It is through God’s commandments that sin produces its actions in us, for without the Law sin is dead (v. 8). Through the Law sin deceives us and kills us.

The Law can neither condemn nor punish us anymore.

“Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?” (Ecclesiastes 7:16)
Law and the effort it requires will kill you, literally!

Glory/No Glory – The Jesus Trip
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VscdMoNS-Q&feature=plcp

There can be no distinction between “ceremonial” and “moral” laws

Galatians 3:10-14
Obey whole Law or none of it. Obey part of it and you are cursed! We don’t live by Law but by faith in Spirit

The division of Moses’ law into three categories is a “totally arbitrary distinction between aspects of the law” (Walter Martin).

“The Mosaic law is viewed by the Scriptures as a unit. The word torah (“law”) when applied to the law of Moses is always singular, although it contains 613 commandments” – Arnold Fruchtenbaum

“It should always be remembered, however, that the distinctions Christians make between ‘moral’ and ‘ceremonial’ laws in the Old Testament, was hardly perspicuous to the Hebrew mind. In the Old Testament, cultic and ethical, moral and ceremonial, religious and civil enactment’s are all worked together, with no sense of impropriety, since they all express the will of Yahweh for his covenant people Israel.” – Paul K. Jewett

“In the epistles that have been preserved to us, nowhere is a distinction made explicitly between the moral and ceremonial, particularistic parts of the law.” – Herman Ridderbos

The Mosaic law-covenant was a unified code which had a beginning and end in history.
The Law of Moses (as a totality) was connected to a particular covenant people that it not us.
In the ultimate purpose of God, this Mosaic economy was temporary, destined to exist “until the time of reformation” (Heb.9:10) when God would speak in a final way in His Son in the last days (Heb.1:1-2).

This doesn’t mean, however, that it is okay to murder, for example. I’m not saying that we should now do the very things the Law forbade. I am saying that the Law is not needed as a written set of instructions for any moral purposes because it’s been placed in us and written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).

Morality, good & evil

http://newcovenantgroup.com/sections/general/alan-darley-on-morality/

There is no good and evil, just wise and foolish

Behavior modification

We are made in God’s image. God wouldn’t implant in us conceptions of good and evil that are different than his. He made the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Thus if something intuitively seems evil (especially to many people), it most likely is.

“Ultimately the Gospel has little to do with morality and much to do with Love – Love, in which morality finds its true context. Meaning, it’s possible the moral person may be in worse shape than the immoral.” – Benjamin Dunn

“When we operate out of the “knowledge of good and evil”, we have nothing to say and nothing to do unless their is a scapegoat to blame for the world and the Church’s problems. We have to have an enemy, or we don’t know what to do with ourselves. We can only recognize good when we have evil to compare it with, and vice versa. Paul, upon beholding the beauty of God’s grace, however, emerged with a different view of things. He concluded that since “one died for all, all died”! In light of this revelation, he could “know no man according to the flesh”. (2 Corinthians 5) He no longer needed evil in order to enable him to see the good, he simply saw good through the light of what Christ had done for all men.” – Jeff Turner

Drop “sin” from vocabulary.
This word now has the connotation of offending God. But God is not offended by our sin. https://supernaturalgospel.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/unoffendability-and-the-relativity-of-sin-part-1/
Replace with miss, error, deviation, mistake

Adam and Even were at their best when they were ignorant of good and evil and were totally fixated on one thing – life.

Christianity is not about a new morality
“The church is not in the morals business. The world is in the morals business, quite rightfully; and it has done a fine job of it, all things considered. The history of the world’s moral codes is a monument of striking unity and beauty. As C.S. Lewis said, everybody who thinks the moral codes of humankind are all different should be locked up in a library and be made to read three days’ worth of them. They would be bored silly by the sheer sameness.
What the world cannot get right, however, is the forgiveness business — and that, of course, is the church’s real job. She is in the world to deal with the sin that the world can’t turn off or escape from. She is not in the business of telling the world what’s right and wrong so that it can do good and avoid evil. She is in the business of offering, to a world that knows all about that tiresome subject, forgiveness for its chronic unwillingness to take its own advice. But the minute she even hints that morals, and not forgiveness, is the name of her game, she instantly corrupts the Gospel and runs headlong into blatant nonsense.” – Robert Capon
“There is nothing intrinsically contrary to the church’s mission, of course, in the suggestion that an upright life might be a good thing for Christians to attempt. But she that suggestion reaches the point at which it becomes a test of membership in the church, it comes smack up against a radical peculiarity of the Gospel: Jesus was not a teach of ethics. The Sermon on the Mount, for instance, is not a string of sensible lessons in morality: it’s a paradoxical presentation, in the form of ethical advice, of recipes for getting yourself creamed. And the radical Gospel of grace and forgiveness that is the church’s deepest message isn’t ethics either. It’s an outrageously unethical offer not to count anybody’s sins at all, because the Lamb of God simply stopped count in when he drew everybody to himself on the cross. At its root, therefore, the Gospel is immoral not moral: it lest scoundrels in free for nothing.” – Robert Capon

Jeremiah 7:22 “For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
(NIV adds “just” to completely change the meaning lol)

Ethics is the attempt to rationally discern good and evil apart from God, just like in the garden.

“Does this mean there is no room for discussions of morality or ethics within the Christian community? Not at all. But al lot these conversations that name certain behaviors as ‘sinful’ must stem from whether or not said behavior is harmful to others, not whether the Bible has certain verses that condemn the behavior. Certain behaviors are both condoned and condemned in Scripture.

You don’t need religion to have a basis for morality, and any basis, even the scriptures, will be subjective.

There is even a science of morality

*****

Also see:

http://www.charismaministries.org/the-12-commandments/
http://www.charismaministries.org/holy-living-vs-moral-living/
http://www.charismaministries.org/descriptions-of-the-mosaic-law-in-the-new-testament/
http://www.charismaministries.org/do-christians-need-to-fulfill-the-law/
http://www.charismaministries.org/law-abiding-vs-under-the-law-vs-gace/
http://www.raptitude.com/2009/04/there-is-no-good-and-evil-just-smart-and-dumb-part-1-of-2/
http://www.raptitude.com/2009/04/there-is-no-good-and-evil-just-smart-and-dumb-part-2-of-2/
http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/bible-clear
http://jimpalmerblog.com/2013/11/04/6-lies-and-6-truths-about-sin-2/
http://jmarjoram.blogspot.jp/2013/05/the-knowledge-of-good-and-evil.html
http://jmarjoram.blogspot.jp/2013/05/more-about-living-loved.html
http://pathux.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/morality
http://pathux.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/moralizers-are-the-new-judaizers/

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What Does Biblical Inspiration Mean, Really? (Part 5)

prophet

Part 4

The scriptures themselves claim that they are not inspired in the modern sense

People like to quote the verses that were discussed in the previous posts, but rarely are the ones that say the opposite ever pointed out. Let’s look at some here.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:12 that a command he gives is “not from the Lord.” What if there are other such parts in Paul’s writings, without him explicitly qualifying it as such as he does here? Or are we going to argue that it is inspired anyways? That God made Paul write that what God was making Paul write wasn’t from God but merely from Paul? Paul being inspired without knowing it, even believing the opposite? God being a tricksy little fellow? Personally, such solutions sound ad hoc and far fetched to me, and I don’t see any other way around it.

“…the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has’” (Job 42:7). Here God says that there are things written about him in the scriptures (what Eliphaz said) that are not true. Some might respond, “but since it says which part is not true, we know that part isn’t true, and the rest of the scriptures are.” Things are not so simple, however. For example, one thing Eliphaz says about God is, “Is not God high in the heavens?” Is he wrong about this? Most would say no. So which things that Eliphaz said about God are true and which are false? There is no obvious way of determining; you have to look at the things he said case by case. I would say so for the rest of the scriptures as well.

“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie” (Jeremiah 8:8). Again we have God himself saying that what is recorded in the scriptures is mistaken. Apparently the scribes changed up some laws when they transcribed the Torah.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person…” (Matthew 5:38-39; Jesus is directly quoting Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21). Here Jesus gives ways of living that are opposite to that of the Law. “You have heard it said…But I tell you…” In essence, Jesus is saying that he did not say that part of the Law and is now telling them what he really thinks (as opposed to what they thought he, that is God, was saying). After all, if the Law was perfect (which it would be if it was given by Jesus), Jesus would have no need to correct it and show a better way.

This raises the question: was the Law really given by God? An answer of “no” is what Paul seems to imply in Galatians 3:19-20. “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.” Even if the original was given by God, what if the human and angelic elements modified it in the process of transmission and transcription?

Jesus seems to imply this in Mark 10:2-5. “Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.'” Jesus makes it sound very much like Moses was not only the writer but also the author of this commandment. “Moses permitted [it],” not God.

I understand that alternate ways of looking at these passages exist, but as I pointed out in the previous two posts, so do there for the verses popularly quoted in support of the modern sense of inspiration. At any rate, it is not immediately obvious which view the scriptures take. Further, they don’t necessarily have to take one or the other; they may take neither or both. To think that they must take one or the other we must assume that the scriptures, which are a collection of writings of varying genres by different authors from a wide-spanning time period, is unified in its message. To derive that it is unified in its message, however, we would have to assume that the scriptures are inspired (unless you want to believe that all the authors had the exact same theology).

It’s very persistent, this circular reasoning. :]

Part 6

Distractive Biblical Obsession (Part 4)

pointer

Part 3

Bibles aren’t meant to be studied or memorized

The early believers didn’t do any private bible studies. There are no exhortations to study or memorize the scriptures in bibles. Only once are they commanded to be read corporately (1 Timothy 4:13), and Paul was only talking to an apostolic leader, not to a congregation in general.

Bible study is like studying a map. Its purpose is to get you to a destination. It points to a reality. But once that destination and reality is reached, the map is no longer needed. It fulfilled its purpose. People can study and discuss the map all their life, or even memorize it, but never know and experience the reality. Many mistake the bible for the reality itself, thinking there is Truth in it. It can be used as a medium for God to communicate truth through, but Truth is not in it. Truth is only pointed to. Truth is a reality – the reality of Jesus Christ, the living person in us.

The idea of bible studies is silly because the scriptures were never written to be studied. Paul didn’t write what he did so that the recipients would spend the rest of their lives picking apart every little word he wrote. This is the attitude that the Pharisees took on, but look where it got them! Only intellectual knowledge can be gained by studying bibles, but Holy Spirit provides revelation.

Bible memorization takes verses out of context and treats them as truth. It can also be used, intentionally or not, as a form of brainwashing, whereby a particular interpretation is attached to certain verses so that those verses are equated in a person’s mind with the truth of that interpretation. This is partially why we see christians posting a bible verse in response to something as if their citation is the end-all proof of their position. It also shows lack of trust in Holy Spirit regularly speaking to us and leading us into all truth. Instead, there is a reliance upon manual recall of verses memorized to be “led.”

Under the Old Covenant there was the Law written in a book. But now it is written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). What was external has been made internal.

The Protestant clergy have rescued the Bible from the darkness of papal libraries and have scattered it abroad over the whole earth. They have exalted it in the highest terms of human praise. They have studied, commented, and explained, nay even tortured every word, phrase, and expression in the original and translations, for every possible interpretation. The result is that Christianity is smothered in theology and criticism: the truths of revelation are wire-drawn and spun and twisted into the most fantastical shapes human fancy or human logic can devise. A system of technical Divinity has been constructed which rivals the complexity of all the machinery of the Romish church. – Stephen Colwell

Part 5

Distractive Biblical Obsession (Part 2)

bible revelation

Part 1

Bibles are not the number one way God speaks to us

At least, according to bibles they’re not. Jesus, the Word of God, is, and he lives in us.

In Exodus 20:18-19 Israel in essence says, “Hey God, quit talking to us. If you want to tell us something, please write something down for us that we can always refer to. We don’t want to talk with you. But if you feel like you have to say something to us other than what you wrote down, you can talk through Moses. But don’t talk directly to us.” Israel thus began relating with God through rules and regulations.

Yet after more than a thousand years of studying their scriptures, the Jews could not recognize the Messiah to which it pointed. Why should we expect to fare any better?

Consider also that making bibles the central way God speaks to us effectively puts some at a disadvantage. It makes reading, and more specifically verbal communication, the most important form of communication with God. But the truth is that some people are better and are more interested in and capable of that kind of communication than others. For example, dyslexics and those in cultures that do not have systems for writing down their language. Do they need a “Moses,” a mediator other than Jesus, to communicate with their Daddy? Sounds like the Old Covenant to me.

I write this to those of you who cannot read…Discover Christ in you, and read him. Your illiteracy is in no way a limitation for God to reveal himself. – Madame Guyon

Further, since reading bibles requires interpretation, those with the most biblical knowledge would also have the greatest advantage. Those who have not gone to seminary or received some kind of formal training are made to be dependent on their pastor or some teacher, who is supposedly more capable of hearing God through reading bibles due to their informed interpretations.

Yet those who preceded the Law, such as Abraham, had no problem directly communicating with God without need for an external mediator or writings even while completely lacking in any knowledge of God. How much more us, in whom Christ has been revealed!

Part 3

The Abolition of Sacrifice

grumpy

Some people view sacrifice as an inherently good thing because God instituted animal sacrifices in the Law or because of the sacrificial death of Jesus. The general concept is carried over into the New Covenant by claiming that we are to live sacrificial lives for God, giving up the things of this world for the things of God (Romans 12:1 is cited often to make this point).

Methinks this is a misconception.

Let’s take a look at the role of sacrifice in human history.

The concepts of sacrifice (or scapegoating) existed in every known culture and society. A historical study (see the works of René Girard) reveals that there were generally two reasons why communities practiced sacrifice – because the gods required it and to keep social order. People viewed sacrifice as necessary because otherwise the gods would unleash their anger on them, and also because it was an outlet for their (the people’s) violence. People didn’t know how to deal with their anger and frustration, so they decided to systematically take it out on something else. Thus, social order is maintained because instead of civil war breaking out, one person (the scapegoat) died for the rest. This mindset can even be seen in the scriptures, where the high priest Caiaphas advises the Pharisees that it is better for one man to die for the people (referring to Jesus) than for the whole nation to be destroyed (John 11:50). Of course, this never gets to the root problem, which is losing sight of who God really is, and thus losing sight of every person’s true desire, which is God himself (Haggai 2:7). Sacrifice emerged from not understanding God’s heart toward people.

The question, then, is why did God command animal sacrifices to be performed under the Law?

The Israelites wanted to be like the nations around them. They wanted laws, not relationship. They wanted human kings, not a heavenly Father. And they wanted sacrificial systems, not unmerited forgiveness. They couldn’t conceive of any other way of dealing with guilt and violence, and, in their minds, that was the only way to satisfy their angry God, Jehovah. But God isn’t like every other ancient god that required sacrifice in order to be nice to people.The truth, the mystery that had been kept hidden for ages, was that God was never angry with them and had forgiven them even before they had asked to be forgiven!

God never wanted our sacrifices, even under the Old Covenant. “Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired…Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required” (Psalm 40:6). “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; And the knowledge of God, more than burnt offering” (Hosea 6:6). (Also see Micah 6:6-8, Isaiah 1:11-14, and Jeremiah 7:21-23.)

morphiusGod instituted the Old Covenant sacrificial system for people, not for himself. It is no different than how Jesus explained that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Its introduction in the Law wasn’t to alleviate God’s anger or satisfy a need to punish sin, both of which God has no need for. Rather, it was a concession to man’s guilt and bloodlust (in fact, the entire system of Law was a concession to Israel since it refused to relate intimately with God; see Exodus 20:18-21). Sacrifice under the Old Covenant was to provide an outlet for human violence and to fulfill the human need to feel free of guilt and have a clear conscience (although according to Hebrews 10:4 it never permanently fixed anything – “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”).

God never wanted to use violence, but mankind did; so God worked within mankind’s violence to achieve His purposes, and to slowly wean His people off of the need for blood punishment. – Christian Erickson

This is why even though the Law contained retributive ordinances with concepts such as equal retaliation (someone who causes harm is repaid with the same harm to themselves), Jesus pointed to a better way. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Indeed, Jesus demonstrated this principle himself as he did not retaliate against his accusers and executioners.

The Law is good (Romans 7:12), but it is not good in the sense that it would be good for us to try and follow it. It is good because it served its purpose, which was to reveal our sinfulness and bring us to our senses (Romans 7:7). When we try our best to follow the Law, we find that our efforts are futile. Thus God administrates his grace to us through the Law because it reveals our need for a savior. God imposed an impossibility on us to make evident the insufficiency of our independent selves (which is only an illusion, because we are never separated from God). It sheds light on the fundamental error made at the fall – thinking that we could do life alone if only we had the knowledge of good and evil.

Thus, just because something is in the Law doesn’t automatically make it good. Sacrifice is a case in point.

The cross didn’t deal with God’s sin consciousness, as if he was hindered from relating with us because of sin. It dealt with our sin consciousness (Hebrews 10:1-3). It doesn’t free God from a need to punish; it frees us from a guilty conscience.

The cross reveals that even when humanity is at its worst, united against God to murder him, God’s love for humanity and how he relates to them does not change. Even when God seems most justified in violently retaliating against humanity (and had the power to do so), he chooses not to. The heart of the Father is revealed.

The cross unmasks the practice of sacrifice (and more generally the concept of retributive punishment) for what it is and rescues humanity from its insanity.

It is simply human violence.

Let me get back to how this relates to sacrifice in our New Covenant lives.

God doesn’t want sacrifice unless he’s providing the sacrifice (think Abraham and Isaac). But from our perspective this isn’t sacrifice at all! Jesus meant it when he said it is more blessed (happy) to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), and he applies it in his dealings with us. God’s not looking for us to do something for him; God derives the greatest pleasure from continually providing for us all that we need. He doesn’t need our help. His joy is rooted in our enjoyment of his provision, not our provision for his non-existent needs.

Missionary to China Hudson Taylor, at the end of a life full of suffering and trial, said, “I never made a sacrifice.” When the motivating factor of service to Christ is love, it doesn’t feel like you’re working at all. It is effortless. There is no sacrifice.

And that’s just the kind of life that Jesus has made available to all.

*****

Also see:

Glimpses Into a Mystery (Andre Rabe)
http://hearhim.net/wordpress/2012/12/27/glimpses-into-a-mystery/

Reinterpreting the Curse and the Fall

If you’ve grown up being taught from bibles, then you were probably told the story of “the fall” in which once upon a time there were Adam and Eve, they did a naughty thing, and God decided to punish them with “the curse”. Assumed in this kind of interpretation are concepts such as God not being able to stand sin, the retributive theory of punishment (that God punishes not because it is remedial but because it is just to do so, and thus that by his own nature he is required to inflict punishment in order to serve justice), and that the story is a literal historical account.

In this post I consider two alternative understandings of this story that have benefitted me.

One way is to continue to read the story literally but reinterpret what took place relationally between God and humanity.

Adam and EveFirst of all, it is not the case that God can’t stand sin (see this myth dispelled here). It was Adam and Eve who chose to hide from God, not God from them (3:8). As Paul explains, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Colossians 1:20, emphasis mine). God never distanced himself from humanity. Rather, people made up their own ideas about what God is like, thereby distancing themselves from him (albeit only in their minds).

Second, the warning God gave to Adam and Eve to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not a threat but a warning of what they will experience. God said “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (2:18). Notice God didn’t say that he would curse or kill them but instead simply said they would die. In other words, God did not threaten to punish them but instead explained the natural consequence of sin.

Further, the curse was not punishment for sin but simply a natural consequence of their behavior. After they eat the fruit God says “because you have done this, you are cursed…” to the serpent (3:14) and “the ground is cursed because of you” to Adam (3:17). They caused what happened to themselves; God didn’t need to do anything. As Paul explains, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Notice that God is not in that part of the verse? He only shows up in the second half: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). It is only natural that when a person sows in sin they reap death. God doesn’t need to inflict divine punishment for that to happen. It was simply a result of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Another way to approach the Genesis account is to interpret it non-literally. One such interpretation as explained by Robert Capon is to take it “…as the story of your, and my, and everybody’s encounter with that same world in our own lives.” Specifically, we all face the temptation to choose the knowledge of good and evil (which is representative of the Law) over life (which is representative of Jesus).

This meshes well with the reinterpretation above. Within this interpretation, the negative effects of the “curse” are a natural result of certain kinds of decisions, acts, and mindsets, the root of which is identified as legalism. Consequences befall every person when they make choices such as Adam and Eve did, not because there is an ontological “curse” inherent within the world that makes things this way but because that’s how the world operates.

Incidentally, “the curse” as referring to the sin of Adam and Eve is not a biblical term, and I contend that it is not a biblical concept either. The only objective curse mentioned is “the curse of the Law,” and Jesus became that curse and destroyed it on the cross (Galatians 3:13). Under this interpretation, it makes sense why the Law would be considered a curse – it is the ultimate end of partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

*****

Also see:

http://gracewalkministries.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-parable-about-fathers.html

A Simple Test of Faith

In the next paragraph I will ask you a question. Take some time to think about it before reading on; otherwise this test will be pointless. Ready?

Where would you end up if you dropped dead right now?

This little exercise reveals where you are placing your faith.

When you pondered your answer to this question, did you think of what you’ve done in your life or what Jesus did for you during his life on earth?

Is your faith in what you do or what Jesus did?

If you thought about what you did when pondering your answer to that question, you need to change the way you think. I’m guessing that most of you probably did.

“I hope I did enough good works in my lifetime.”

“I wonder if this thing I am struggling with right now will keep me from going to be with Jesus?”

Legalistic thoughts. Religious thoughts. Ridiculous thoughts.

But I don’t blame those of you who did. I used to think such thoughts myself. There’s too many churches that make your actions the focus rather than Jesus’. They try to treat your behavior without addressing its cause.

In essence, they preach the Law.

“You need to stop doing this.”

“You need to do more of this.”

But we know from Paul that the Law only makes us sin more (Romans 5:207:5).

Back to this issue of where our faith is.

The good news is that Jesus did a good enough job saving you.

Welcome to the New Covenant.

Yeah, I know most of you have heard this before, perhaps more than you want to. But are you really getting it? Because if you do, the answer to that question I asked at the beginning will jack you up with ridiculous amounts of joy.

And this is why: In terms of salvation, what you do doesn’t matter.

Even your faith in Jesus or your choosing him doesn’t save you. 

Now if you actually have a desire to “unsave” yourself, that’s another story. You can choose to reject the reality that Jesus already saved you, act like God isn’t with you, believe that he’s angry with you, and live in an illusion. Hope that’s not you. It certainly isn’t most people, especially when they know that God is madly in love with them, overflowing with grace, and the most fun guy to be around.

But, again, what you do doesn’t change the fact that Jesus saved you.

Bye bye Old Covenant.