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Second Quarter 2014 (April–June)
COMMENTARY ON CHRIST AND HIS LAW
Week 1: March 29–April 4
COMMENTARY ON LAWS IN CHRIST'S DAY
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This week the Quarterly lesson focuses on the various laws the Hebrew people were subject to during ‘Christ’s Day’ with the implication that this will give us, as Christians, an understanding of how we are to now obey God. The lesson is rather disingenuous because it deflects our attention from understanding or considering the God ordained foundation of Mosaic Law.
The foundation for Mosaic Law is the Covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai (Horeb), Ex. 19-24.
And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said: “‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deut. 5:1-6)
This was a conditional covenant meaning Israel would be blessed when they obeyed God but were promised that curses would follow if they did not ‘obey the voice of God’:
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth…. But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” (Deut. 28:1, 15)
The Mosaic Law cannot be considered apart from understanding the Mosaic Covenant.
To understand the purpose of the Mosaic Covenant, including the law contained within this covenant, you must be aware of who were the recipients bound by this covenant.
In Gen. 17:9-15 God introduces circumcision as the sign of his unconditional (eternal) covenant he made with Abraham wherein his descendants would become a great nation and through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. Later after 430 years in the land of Egypt, before the Israelites could keep their very first Passover and escape their bondage, all the Hebrew males were required to be circumcised, Ex.12:43-50. During their forty years of wandering in the wilderness circumcision had been again neglected. Before they could cross over the Jordan into the Promised Land we see that all the Hebrew males who were born during their wanderings in the desert were required to be circumcised in preparation for observing the Passover prior to crossing over the Jordan, Joshua 5:2-12. You could not claim to be part of the Mosaic covenant with Israel without also submitting to the sign of Abrahamic covenant.
Roman law and rabbinic law are not part of the Covenant God made with Israel.
The Quarterly lesson devotes a day each to what it refers to as ‘Roman law’ and ‘rabbinic law’.
Since Israel was part of the Roman Empire it is rather obvious that the general population was subject to the rule of the Romans. Modern day Christians even though we may have a certain amount of personal freedom also live under the rule of human government. In the New Testament (Covenant) Scriptures the apostles such as Paul and Peter address the conduct of all Christians towards the authorities that govern our lives wherever we may live:
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17)
In the case of the Apostle Paul, we see in Scripture that even though he preached against whatever was evil and frequently suffered for doing so he was willingly subject to the governing authorities. In invoking his rights as a Roman citizen, Acts 25:1-12, he acknowledged the authority of Caesar to rule in his case. When shipwreck on the Island of Malta when on the journey to Rome, Acts 27:13-28:10, he could have easily escaped yet had the trust of the Roman guard that he would not do so.
As for rabbinic law which the Hebrew people were also subject to we see a very different situation. Generally speaking this term is in reference to what is really called the Talmud, a word that means “Instruction” and “Teaching” in Hebrew. For conveyance we can think of the Talmud (rabbinic law) as rabbinic commentary on the Torah (the Mosaic writings, the books of the law). While the Torah is accepted as the inspired word of God the Talmud, while revered by the Jews, doesn’t hold this same high status. While Jesus didn’t outright condemn ‘the traditions of men which have the appearance of holiness’ he certainly attacked the hypocritical way the ‘scribes and Pharisees’ replaced the word of God with their own selfish application of these traditions, Matthew 23.
The irony here is that what Seventh-day Adventist theology promotes is very similar in nature to rabbinic law, only more so. Here are just a few points to show that Adventist doctrine is filled with non-biblical traditions not support from Scripture with one major difference. Adventist would dare interpret and alter the meaning of Scripture to accord with what Ellen G. White says, something no Jew would dare think to do.
Point #1: Death and rebirth of the human spirit:
The Adventist teaching concerning the human spirit is non-biblical making it at best nothing more than a human tradition. In Gen. 2:15-17 God tells Adam that if he ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil he would die on that day. Since he did eat he did die even though he lived a physical life for many more years. In response to what one must ‘do’ to enter the Kingdom of God what we learn from the teachings of Jesus is that the one thing a sinner is lacking is a living human spirit, John 3:1-21. The Adventist belief that our spirit is nothing more than the physical air God breathed into Adam contradicts Jesus teaching that a sinner’s spirit is dead and must be reborn before entry can be gained into the kingdom of God.
Point #2: Atonement for sin was completed at the Cross:
When Jesus died on the cross his last words were “it is finished”, John 19:28-30. When Jesus arose from the grave three days later there was nothing else that needed doing to complete the salvation of mankind. This is why he sat down ‘at the right hand of God’ nearly 2000 years ago, as recorded in Heb. 10:11-14. He has ‘perfected for all time those who are being sanctified’. In Scripture there is no such thing as the Investigative/Sanctuary Doctrine.
Point #3: Satan plays no role what-so-ever in the salvation of mankind:
Keep in mind that the atonement for our sins was completed by Jesus Christ at the cross of Calvary, Gal. 3:24. Jesus bore our sins on the cross. It is heresy to suggest Satan is portrayed in Leviticus chapter sixteen as the one who bears our sins. Note in Lev. 16:5 that both goats are a sin offering. Both goats must be spotless without blemish meaning neither goat could possibly represent Satan. Both goats could only represent and portray our perfect sinless Savior who bore our sins into the grave at Calvary.
Point #4: Worshiping God never was about worshiping on a certain day of the week:
An important topic for Adventist is that of ‘Sabbath Keeping’ with the belief that this is an eternal moral law. Biblically, this is a day of rest that commemorates the Hebrew peoples escape from their bondage in Egypt where they never rested. In the time of Jesus and the original apostles it was a tradition of the Jews to meet together on the Sabbath at a local Synagogue if they were within ‘a Sabbath-day walk’ for the public reading of the scriptures. Somehow, this tradition of the Jews has been adapted into the Adventist doctrine and practice of worshiping God on the Sabbath. Worshiping God, on the other hand, was not and never was about the correct day of Sabbath resting. Rather, it was all about where you could worship God. If you study the account of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman you will see in John 4:20-24 that up until then it was all about where you could worship God, not when. Jesus responded to her question by saying “those who worship him (God) must worship in spirit and truth” without the slightest indication about this being on a certain day. If you wish to ‘keep’ the Sabbath day holy by resting then do so. But, don’t confuse that with how to worship God.
The Mosaic Law of the Old Covenant is the sum of all the Torah.
The lesson tends to confuse the real issue of obedience to the will of God in several ways. The first is that all of the Mosaic Law formed the central part of the old conditional covenant with Israel where God would bless Israel if they obeyed the Mosaic Law, all of this law. Israel agreed to this covenant which God made with them. If they did not obey or confess and repent of their sins there would be severe adverse consequences, Joshua 8:32-35. The Book of the Law of Moses is better known as the ‘Torah’ which is all of the first five books in the Christian Old Testament bible. Moral Law is not a concept mentioned or even inferred to in this covenant. In the following passage the Apostle Paul is referring to the Torah, the entire law.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Gal. 3:10)
All who attempt to keep even parts of the Torah are under a curse because they must abide by all the law, not just a part of the law, such as the Ten Commandments or what Adventist arbitrarily define as eternal moral law. The Old Covenant with Israel did not separate the law in this covenant into the parts described in this lesson. Interestingly, the lesson refers to the ‘613 separate commands’ contained in this law but fails to point out that obedience to all of the law was required in the Old Covenant.
While the Jews certainly were compelled to also obey Roman law and what this lesson calls rabbinic law, it should be kept in mind that these laws are not part of the Old Covenant God made with Israel.
Jesus Christ introduced the New Covenant to Israel by fulfilling the requirements of the Old Covenant.
This passage in Jerimiah is quoted in Hebrew chapter eight:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer. 31:31-33)
Here Jesus declares he has come to fulfill the requirements of the Old Covenant:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matt. 5:17-18)
Jesus introduces the New Covenant, the covenant prophesied by Jerimiah, to the disciples:
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:26-29)
The Torah cannot be separated into parts. It is untrue to say certain laws were ‘ceremonial’ and no longer binding while other laws are eternal moral laws. Either all the law was fulfilled or none of it. The New Covenant didn’t modify the Old Covenant. The New replaces the Old. In the New Covenant God’s law is no longer written on paper or stone. It is written on the hearts of those redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ through his promised gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, John 16:5-15.
Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Old Covenant. On the night before he was crucified he proclaimed the New Covenant which replaces what was before it along with the whole law it contained. Furthermore, if you place yourself under any part of the law of this covenant then you are guilty of failure to obey all of the law.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4)