Thursday, March 10, 2016

Does 2 Corinthians 3 replace the Law with a 'liberal spirit of a suggestion of Jesus'?

Does 2 Corinthians 3 replace the Law with a 'liberal spirit of a suggestion of Jesus'?

by Diane M. Hoffmann

Here is another of my replies to inquiries sent by someone who believes that the ordinances of the Old Testament are to be kept by Christians today…

The specific inquiry originally addressed to a group of British-Israelism believers was this:

“Do you have an analysis handy of 2 Corinthians 3, which I gather Donald Trump tried awkwardly to cite recently? This is the passage (as you probably know) in which some/many "Christians" claim does away with the Old Testament law and replaces it with a fuzzy liberal spirit of Jesus’ suggestion. My sense is that OT rules such as Sabbath-keeping were to be "signs forever throughout your generations" but I would appreciate receiving whatever commentaries you have on that point. “

My answer:

There is no argument about whether or not Christians are to keep the commandments… we are and we do – i.e.: we have no other gods, we honour our parents, we don’t kill our neighbour, etc… (unless we wilfully disobey of course).

 The difference is that in the Old Testament we see man as unable to keep the letter of the Law. In the New Testament – which was promised throughout the Old – man can now keep the commandments (all 10 of them) THROUGH CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH HE OBTAINED FOR US ON THE CROSS.  In Christ we are now righteous. In Christ we now CAN keep the commandments! Before we could not.

 Jesus reduced the understanding of the 10 commandments into 2:

 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. 

 “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

 “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

 In other words, if we do these 2 commandments, we do ALL 10 commandments…

The first 4 commandments of the Old Testament have to do with God – so by keeping the first commandment Jesus gave in Matthew 22 we keep all four.

Then the next 6 commandments of the Old Testament have to do with man – so by keeping this second commandment Jesus gave in Matthew 22 we keep all 6.

The problem is that most Christians are not taught to understand this.

 As for the sabbath, it is part of the 10 commandments. No-one has taken it out of them. Only that Christians began to keep it on Sunday. What is important is that we know as Christians what it represents.

 That commandment says:

 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day:wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exodus 20:8-11).

 It is a day of rest -- made for man not man made for the sabbath. (Mark 2:27).

 Yes, to Christians today, after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (God in the flesh), it represents His triumphant Resurrection to overcome life, death and judgment on our behalf.  But also the sabbath in the Old Testament represented God’s act of creation BEFORE man sinned.

 Jesus kept the sabbath, yes, and other Holy Days as well. He was a Jew, living among the Jews, but His atoning death had not yet been consummated. Remember on the cross He cried out “It is finished”. That’s when His ultimate sacrifice became in effect.

 During His ministry, he was constantly attacked on the issue of the sabbath where He responded that He was even the Lord of the sabbath (Matthew 12:8). But they didn’t understand this yet, for He was going to give His life for that “fulfilment” of the law requirements later on at the end of His ministry on earth.

 Jesus not only “liberalized” but He actually fulfilled all the demands of the law in His death and Resurrection. Otherwise, if He did not, why did He die a most humiliating death before His whole Creation.

By the way, to the scriptures used to support that the law was given as "a sign for ever" or a "perpetual covenant" as being the interpretation for believers today to still have to keep the law, a search of the word “perpetual” and "forever" shows that the Hebrew word used is ‘olam’ which means a thing concealed, a vanishing point, always as in continually, lasting, long time, etc.  It does not always refer to forever in the sense of never ever ending throughout eternity.

However in some scriptures, the same words, perpetual and forever, are from another Hebrew word. Based on the context of the scripture we can tell what the sense of it is. For example, when a scripture refers to God's eternal glory as in Psalm 104:5, the same word is used and we know that it means eternal.

In Isaiah 57:15 where it speaks of God as the "lofty one that inhabits eternity"; here, the word in Hebrew for eternity is 'ad' which means a duration, everlasting, perpetuity throughout God’s eternity. And in another scripture, Isaiah 60:15, speaking of Zion, the Hebrew word for 'eternal' is 'olam'.

In the Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, there is a whole page-and-a-half spent to explaining the varieties of meanings for this one word 'olam'.  One portion of it I quote: "(2) It more often refers to future time, in such a manner, that what is called the terminus ad quem (the goal, the object) is always defined from the nature of the thing itself. When it is applied to human affairs, and specially - (a) to individual men, it commonly signifies all the days of life, as a perpetual slave (not to be discharged as long as he lives)... poetically used as a beast, Job 40:28..." etc. The Lexicon goes on to show a multitude of examples to this effect.

 So, the scriptures referred to in the book of Exodus, in context, is actually saying:

 “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual (olam) covenant.” (i.e.: for a time concealed, till a vanishing point, always as in continually every day for a long time, etc. during their life time).

When did that time come to an end?  In the New Covenant when God, through the death of Jesus Christ His Son (God in the flesh) gave His life on the cross, as the ultimate sacrifice that the previous ordinances could not permanently cover.

This had been promised for over four thousand years, through the prophets and the shadows of the feasts and sabbaths of things to come.  To the people living at that time, that four thousands years was an eternity!  The explanation of all of this is given in the many books of the New Testament, especially Romans, Hebrews and others that specifically refer to the books of the Law in the Old Testament.

"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1-3).

But, we have to remember though, that the Jews/Israelites who are not born-again, who have not yet received the work of Jesus Christ on the cross in the New Covenant, are still continuing to keep the sabbaths and holy feasts.  But these are not necessary for Salvation, because Salvation is by grace alone ONCE REPENTANCE AND ACCEPTANCE has taken place in the heart of the unsaved who wants to be saved.

 Re the idea that the keeping of the sabbath was changed centuries later by a corrupted church for political reasons, these issues are dealt with specifically in the book of Acts and Romans which were written just a few years after Christ’s death and resurrection. The apostles did go into synagogues, where there were gathered Jews, to teach them the good news of Jesus Christ and “contend for the faith”. The Christians began to keep Sunday – Resurrection day – immediately, and especially, later on, after they were forbidden to come into the synagogues.

As for the keeping of the Jewish Feasts, this idea is mostly prominent among people who believe themselves to be Israelites and as such need to keep them.  Some believe in Christ’s atonement but not in the true sense of the word. Atonement is received by grace, “lest any one should boats”, not by grace + works.

However, again, Christians need to know the meaning of the Jewish feasts in the Old Testament in order to understand and appreciate the meaning of the New Testament. And the Church should teach it.

As Daniel Fuchs said in Israel’s Holy Days-In Type and Prophecy , “As we study the calendar outlined in Leviticus 23, we will realize that we cannot understand the New Testament without understanding the Old Testament. The converse is also true. We cannot begin to appreciate the Old Testament until we accept the One who is revealed to us in the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift fully given by Jehovah God."

 The problem is that some people are stuck in the Old Testament still. We need to know it but we need to move into the full grace and mercy of the New Covenant promised in the Old -- otherwise what we’re saying is that Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and His resurrection is not enough.

 As for “the popular teaching of mainstream Christianity that the law of God is done away” quoted by the Philadelphia Church -- who will we believe, the Christ and His apostles of two thousand years ago, or contemporary groups’ teachings of two hundred years ago?  The Word of God is true, it just needs to be interpreted in context.

 2 Corinthians 3:3-18

3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward:

5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;

6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?

9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.

11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

12 Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:

13 And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:

14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.

16 Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.

17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

We are now led by the Spirit of the Lord – not of the letter./dmh

 Diane M. Hoffmann, B.Th., M.Th., Ph.D./Th.
Author of "24 Hot Potatoes in the Church Today"
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