Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Ten Commandments, the Sabbath, and Animal Sacrifices

I recently posted a comment on the The Bible In Depth blog about the Sabbath and animal sacrifices, and the writer of the original post (But I Don't Want To Go!!!!) raised a number of questions. Since the answers will be somewhat off-topic to his original post, I will answer them here.

"What is the purpose of animal sacrifices?"

The purpose of animal sacrifices is educational. God uses them to teach us about the sacrifice of Christ. They are symbolic. They are a copy and shadow of the real sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 8:3-6, Hebrews 9:23-28, Hebrews 10:1-10, Galatians 3:23-25). In these verses in Hebrews and Galatians, the term "law" in this context is referring to the law of Old Covenant animal sacrifices and rituals. It does not refer to God's spiritual law (Romans 7:13-25) or to the ten commandments (James 2:8-13). Just as today, a word can mean different things, depending on the context. The word "law" can refer to the spiritual law of God, or to the books of Moses, or in this case to the laws of the Levitical priesthood, that is, animal sacrifices.

Although animal sacrifices are not being used now in this church age, the prophecy in the book of Ezekiel from chapter 40 to the end of the book seems to show that there will be a system of animal sacrifices in the future, no doubt in the millenium. To the best of my knowledge, the conditions described in Ezekiel 47:7-12 (healing waters) have never been fulfilled in history, which is why I say this appears to be a prophecy concerning the temple in the millenium. If I am correct and if animal sacrifices are restored in the millenium, then those sacrifices can be a valuable teaching tool for teaching the people about the sacrifice of Christ.

Another indication that this prophecy has never been fulfilled in the past is the division of the land among all the tribes of Israel as described in Ezekiel 47:13-23 and Ezekiel 48:1-35. That has not occurred since the captivity of Israel by Assyria about 700 years before Christ. So this must be in the future.

"Were the 10 commandments a part of the Mosaical Law?"

Yes. The ten commandments are a summary of God's spiritual law (Romans 7:14). God's spiritual law is love (1 John 5:3). It is summarized as love towards God and love towards neighbor (Matthew 22:35-40). The ten commandments further summarize God's law of love and breaks it down in more detail, with the first four commandments teaching us how to love God and the last six how to love our neighbor, and the ten commandments are still in effect (James 2:10-11). Sin is defined in the Bible as the transgression of the law (King James Version) or "lawlessness" as translated in the New King James Version (1 John 3:4).

As a summary of God's spiritual law, the ten commandments are foundational to both the old and new covenants, and it is part of the Mosaical Law as well as part of the New Covenant. The New Covenant does not replace or do away with God's spiritual law, but rather the New Covenant promises that God will write His law in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10, Hebrews 10:16). Jesus in the sermon on the mount taught that we must obey the commandments in their fullest spiritual application, not just the letter (Matthew 5:21-30).

"What was the purpose of the Sabbath?"

There can be many purposes of the Sabbath, and not all are stated because God does not explain every reason for every command, but I think we can discern some of them. The Sabbath gives man much needed rest from the burdens of working six days. The Sabbath provides time for us to draw close to God in prayer and Bible study, to receive instructions from God's ministry, and to draw closer to our brethren in Christian fellowship. I think it is evident that the weekly Sabbath pictures the 1000 year reign of Christ after 6,000 years of man's rule on this earth under the influence of Satan. It can picture the spiritual rest we have in Christ (Matthew 11:28-30).

In addition to the weekly Sabbath, there are annual Sabbaths that help to illustrate God's plan of salvation for mankind.

But there are two purposes of the Sabbath that are stated in the Bible. One, God has used, and I have no doubt He continues to use, the Sabbath as a test command to test the obedience of His people. He used it to test ancient Israel and He specifically calls it a test (Exodus 16:4-5, 25-30). Note from these verses that the Sabbath was part of God's law BEFORE the ten commandments were given and the Old Covenant made with Israel. Also, Christ indicated that the Sabbath was made for mankind (Mark 2:27). The Old Covenant was never made with mankind as a whole but only with Israel. This shows that the Sabbath is not just a ritual limited to the Old Covenant, for then it would not have been made for all mankind, only Israel. So a purpose of the Sabbath can be a test of our obedience.

Secondly, the Sabbath is a sign. It identifies to us who the true God is, that is, the creator. It also identifies who God's people are to God, that is, those who obey Him. There is a scripture that seems to indicate that the Sabbath was made a separate covenent, not part of the Old Covenant, but a different covenant, for the very purpose of serving as a sign between God and His people, in Exodus 31:12-17, especially verse 16.

"Did Jesus fulfill the law?"

Yes. Jesus obeyed the law perfectly, setting us an example. He stated that He obeyed His Father's commandments (John 15:10). Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Since Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:14-15), He must have perfectly kept God's law. He also fulfilled prophecy concerning His first coming.

"Does or can the Bible contradict itself?"

No.

All scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God cannot lie (Titus 1:1-3, Hebrews 6:17-18). Therefore, God cannot contradict Himself. Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:34-36).

If there appears to be a contradiction, it is because there is a mistranslation or because there is something about the scripture we do not understand.

I have proved that the Bible is inspired by God by prophecies that have been fulfilled, but I choose to believe that God cannot lie, and that is a part of my faith. So by faith I know that the Bible cannot contradict itself.

30 comments:

josiah said...

I find your answers to Christian's questions interesting. I am though having real difficulty getting my head around separating the law and the commandments.

Since the questions covered so much ground I will limit my comments and questions for this time to just part of your response.

It is stated that the sabbath was made for man, Mark 2:27. Can't argue with that for so saith the Lord. From the context to whom was He speaking? Then you call our attention to Exodus 31:12-17 and especially verse 16. It is suggested that this would indicate that the Sabbath was part of a separate covenant. I would like to know from the context when and where this exchange as recorded here took place. Also with whom was the covenant made?

Looking forward to your reply.

UncleJesse said...

Your right, Jesus fulfilled the law. But, there is no need for animal sacrifices, the "healing waters" is referring to new covenant living.

D. L. Pease said...

You recently left a comment to my post at www.willnotdelay.blogger.com about my blog "Can Preterists Be Saved and Still Be Denied membership in a Church." As a preterist I believe every single prophecy in the Bible was fulfilled with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 A.D. There will be no animal sacrifices offered to God that are authorized by Him - Christ's blood sacrifice is final and all sufficient. Ezekiel 47:7-12 (healing waters) were fulfilled in Christian Baptism through which we are buried with Christ, Rise with Christ and are Born Again and receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit (which is not speaking in any unknown, or known tongues). The True Church is the Spiritual Body of Christ; The Bride of Christ; The Kingdom of God to which True Christians are added daily. The purpose of my blog was to start a discussion about how congregations (denominations etc.) have their own rules for membership that are stricter than God's and even different - many say we are saved by "Faith Alone" but need more to be a member of a congregation - that shows us that they really don't believe in "Faith Alone." I do not believe we are saved by "Faith Alone" and that the same process for being "Saved" is the same for being brought into fellowship of the true congregation of Christ. In Christ's Love, David

author@ptgbook.org said...

Josiah:

Good questions!

The context of Jesus's statement about the sabbath being made for man was twofold. There was the local context of the Jews He was speaking to. From their point of view, it would not make any difference if Jesus had said that the Sabbath was made for the Jew or that the Sabbath was made for Israel. If anything, they would probably like it as well or better if He had said Jew since they didn't have much regard for non-Jews. But there is a larger context as well. God the Father inspired Jesus's teaching, and the Father and Christ knew what conditions would be in our time. The Holy Spirit inspired these scriptures as Mark wrote them. God knew there would be questions and controversies about the Sabbath in our day. And to me and to others like me who look to the Bible for answers about whether or not the fourth commandment is still in force, it makes a great deal of difference if Christ used the word, "man" or "Jew". If He said the Sabbath was made for the Jew, I might not be keeping it, since I am not Jewish. But God, knowing the importance of being accurate not only for the Jews of Jesus's day but for us who look to the Bible for all doctrinal truth, inspired the word "man". The Sabbath was made for mankind, not just the Jew.

The context of the Sabbath covenant was that God was speaking to Israel, and the covenant was made with Israel. Does it apply to Christians? Yes, because we are spiritual Israel. In other words, when one accepts Christ, one becomes a spiritual Jew (Romans 2:28-29). When we become Christ's, we are spiritually circumcised, and counted as an Israelite in God's sight. We receive the spiritual promises made to Abraham and become Abraham's seed (Galatians 3:29). We become "grafted into" Israel as a branch of one plant is grafted into another, as Paul pictures in Romans 11:16-24. Christians become Israelites in a spiritual sense in God's sight. Therefore, any covenant God made with Israel applies to Christians today, unless a scripture in the Bible shows that the covenant is no longer in force. There are scriptures that show that the Old Covenant has been replaced by the New Covenant for Christians. That Old Covenant was the covenant of national blessings and protection for physical obedience which God made in Exodus 24:1-8. This Old Covenant was replaced with the New Covenant for Christians. The difference? Not a different spiritual law, but different promises. The Old Covenant promised national protection and prosperity in this life only. The New Covenant promises the Holy Spirit and eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

My point is that the Sabbath covenant, the promise that the Sabbath would be a special sign, is not part of the Old Covenant and therefore is not replaced or done away. It still serves as a sign today between God and His people, spiritual Israel.


unclejesse:

The prophecy at the end of Ezekiel seems very literal. I do not see anything in it that indicates God is speaking figuratively or symbolically. Unless I see some evidence that this is symbolic, I have to read it literally.

Please understand my point. I am not saying that animal sacrifices are necessary for salvation. But they can serve as a teaching tool, once a person who is performing the sacrifice understands the meaning. When a person keeps a lamb, perhaps loves the lamb, then offers it as a sacrifice, watching the blood pour out of its cut throat, he can better appreciate what Christ and the Father went through when Jesus was killed. It is a more dramatic lesson than just reading about sacrifices in the Bible. That is the only reason I can think of why there will be sacrifices in the millenium, or after the millenium.

And if that is not the reason, then I do not know why God will have animal sacrifices. I only believe what He says in Ezekiel. I don't know any other way to reconcile these facts: 1) The prophecy in Ezekiel uses literal language, not figures of speech, and it is very detailed. 2) This prophecy describes healing waters, which has never occurred in history to the best of my knowledge. 3) It describes the settlement of all twelve tribes in alloted territories, which has never occured since this prophecy was written till today. 4) It describes animal sacrifices. Since the prophecy never occurred in the past, it must be for the future. That is all I know.

Now if it is not in the millenium, it may be in a period following the millenium in the white throne judgement. This will be a time pictured by the prophecy of the valley of dry bones when ancient Israel will be resurrected back to physical life. If that is the case, there may be an additional reason for the sacrifices - those who are resurrected will be accustomed to them, and they will continue doing what they have done in the past, only they will be taught their meaning. Then those who are willing can repent and accept Christ.

Remember, the sacrifices are designed to lead a person to Christ. So why should it seem strange that they will be used for that very purpose, to lead people to Christ and help them understand the sacrifice of Christ?


d. l. Pease:

Thank you for the information about preterists. I did not know you believe that every prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D., and I find that interesting. Just out of curiosity, do you believe that Christ will yet return to the earth in the future? And do you believe the prophecies in Revelation, such as Revelation 21:1-4, were fulfilled in 70 A.D.?

josiah said...

It is nice that we can agree on a couple of things, the scriptures are inspired by God and that those who obey Christ are spiritual Israel. However you seem to have overlooked the context surrounding Mark 2:27. What exactly was the message Jesus was giving to the Pharisees who questioned Him about lawful activity on the sabbath?

Also you did not answer the when and where of the context of Exodus 31:12-17. These questions cannot be overlooked if one who looks to the Bible for answers wishes to find out what it really says.

author@ptgbook.org said...

Josiah:

The Pharisees were being overly strict in how they kept the Sabbath. They were adding do's and dont's of their own devising, not required by God. God intended the Sabbath to a day of rest and joy and turning towards God, but the Pharisees were making it into a burden. In effect, they were elevating their concepts of how the Sabbath to should be kept above the primary purpose of the Sabbath, that is, that the Sabbath was made by God to provide benefits for man. The Sabbath was intended to be a blessing, a gift to mankind for man's good, both physically and spiritually. If the Pharisees had kept that purpose in mind, that the Sabbath was created to benefit man, they would not have turned it into a burden. That is Christ's point when He said the Sabbath was made for man.

God did not prohibit men from eating on the Sabbath. The disciples were not doing any work of harvesting a crop. They were not laboring to harvest a crop, putting the wheat into containers. They were merely eating food off the stalks as they walked through the field. The Pharisees were also being too judgmental and harsh towards others. They lacked the quality of mercy. They were being picky and forgetting the larger issues. They were looking for ways to find fault in others.

Jesus pointed out that the Sabbath was created by God as a blessing to mankind, and He also said that because of this, He (the Son of Man), was "Lord" (or boss, having authority over) the Sabbath. Christ had the authority to teach how it should be kept.

Notice that Christ did not say that the Sabbath was abolished and no longer in effect. He could have said that if it were true, but He did not say that.

Consider, there could be two possible reasons why the Pharisees were wrong to criticize the disciples for picking grain to eat from the fields on the Sabbath: 1) the Sabbath was done away and no longer needed to be observed, or 2) God's law of the Sabbath permitted what the disciples were doing because God created the Sabbath as a blessing, not a burden. Which reason did Jesus give? Not that the Sabbath was done away. That the Sabbath is a blessing, not a burden. In giving this answer, Christ was affirming the validity of the Sabbath, not abolishing it.

The when and where of the context of Exodus 31:12-17 is as follows. These instructions were given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, and Moses wrote them in the book that became the book of Exodus. This occurred the first time Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. It occurred after God made the Old Covenant with Israel, after the people agreed to the Old Covenant and it was ratified with blood (Exodus 24:1-16). It was before Moses returned and found that the people had made a golden calf (Exodus 32:19). So the instructions for this Sabbath covenant were given to Moses for Israel between the time of the ratifying of the Old Covenant and the time Israel made a golden calf.

As I pointed out in my previous comment, this Sabbath covenant with Israel is binding upon Christians because we are spiritual Israel, and covenants made with Israel apply to us unless revoked somewhere else in scripture. The Old Covenant is revoked for Christians in scripture, but not this Sabbath covenant, so it is still in force. Besides, if you look at the wording of this covenant, the purpose of it applies as much to Christians as to ancient Israel. "...Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you" (Exodus 31:13). Does this purpose apply to the Church? Are Christians to know who the LORD is? Yes. Are we sanctified by God? Yes. So the Sabbath is still a sign for Christians that helps us know who God is and that we are sanctified by God. I find nowhere in the Bible any scripture that says this covenant was abolished by God. If you know of such a scripture, tell me and I will look at it.

What else are you looking for regarding the context of this passage?

Christian said...

Dear Author,

First I would like to offer thanks for moving the topic of discussion here and answering my questions.

Please bear with me as I try to understand your answers according to the Scriptures. I will restate my questions and then give the shortened version of your answers as best I understand them. I shall begin where all discourse upon the Scriptures should begin: the question as to whether the Bible contradicts itself.

5. Does the Bible contradict itself? A. No.

Follow up: Herein we both agree. The Bible does not contradict itself. Yet it may contradict what we believe. At that point wherein we find our belief in contradiction to the Scriptures, it is our responsibility to change our belief by bringing it into harmony with the Scriptures and not the Scriptures into harmony with our belief.

1. What is/was the purpose of animal sacrifices? A. Educating man about the sacrifice of Christ.

Question 1.a.) Seeing as how Cain and Abel did not offer a sacrifice to God but offered tribute or donation according to the definition of 'minchah' in Genesis 4:3-4; the first recorded animal sacrifice is in Genesis 8:20(context is verses 15-22). What am I to learn about Christ from this sacrifice?

Question 1.b.) Galatians 3, Hebrews 7-10 refer simply to "the law" and contrast how it was a law of works rather than faith, and that the law had to be changed in order for Jesus to become High Priest. If, justification could not be had via the law and the blood of bulls and goats, what purpose would it be to return to the ordinances of animal sacrifice?

Question 1.c.) Why would we need to have animal sacrifices to teach us about our King in the millenium when He is reigning over us and we have the Scriptures to read which teach us about Christ?

Question 1.d.) Is Christ not the living water? As you read Nehemiah 7, it lists the people by cities. Do not hese cities represent the entirety of the tribal division of Israel?


2. Were the 10 commandments a part of the Mosaical Law? A.)Yes

Question 2.a.) If I were to revise my will which defines which of my offspring receive my possessions and how they will receive them, could I bring elements of the previous will into the new will and would that mean that the previous will would still be binding?

Question 2.b.) Would my offspring be able to pick and choose which elements are binding between the two wills?

Question 2.c.) If Peter, James, The other apostles, Paul, and the Hebrew writer all say that the law is no longer valid as a means to salvation, can we say otherwise? (Cf. Acts 15, Romans 7:4-7, Galatians 2-3, Ephesians 2, Colossians 2, Hebrews 7-10, & James 2). Please note the use of such words as 'abolished', 'changed', 'blotting out', and 'new' used in reference to the covenant, commandments, and ordinances.

3. What was the purpose of the Sabbath? A. Because there are many, we have to discern which is meant.

Question 3.a.) Is there any reference to anyone keeping the Sabbath before the Law of Moses like there is of the animal sacrifices?

Question 3.b.) Doesn't the Scripture tell us the reason for the Sabbath? Exodus 16:23 is the first occurance of the word Sabbath in the Scriptures as Josiah pointed out. Moses says to the people "This is that which the Lord has said, "Tomorrow is the special holiday (See definition of "rest" - 7677 in Strongs Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew and Greek)of the Holy Intermission (meaning of Sabbath - 7673)unto the Lord." Therefore, from God's definition to His people through Moses, Sabbath is a special holiday, a rest day if you will, unto the Lord. Moses also said in Exodus 20:8-11 that they were to keep the Sabbath because God had dedicated it (hallowed it). In Exodus 31:13-17 that it was a sign and a covenant between the children of Israel and God (notice it applies only to the children of Israel not the children of Abraham (Galatians 3)).

Question 3.c.) You say that the sabbath was a test. Can you cite another passage which states this? The reference you used of Exodus 16:4-5 refers only to the ammount of mana gathered as being the test. As we read the rest of the context, we find that Israel did fail that test by leaving some for the next day and ended up with rotten mana the next day. (Exodus 16:4-20).

Question 3.d.) You say here that the sabbath was made for all mankind (Mark 2:27) yet why did you leave out the context of Mark 2:23-28? It is important to note that the disciples harvested grain to eat on the sabbath, a thing forbidden by the Law and punishable by death (Exodus 31:14-16). When questioned by the Pharisees, Jesus used the example of David breaking the Law of Moses to teach 2 lessons: 1. the sabbath's relationship/position as servant to man; & 2. Jesus' (who was the Son of man) Authority and supremacy over the Sabbath. In other words, the sabbath was like the rest of creation in that it was made to serve man, and as God and man, Jesus who made the sabbath had the power/authority over it to do as He saw fit. Even allowing His disciples to harvest and eat thereon. Notice that He did not eat of the corn and thus He kept the Sabbath.

Question 3.e.) If God made the Sabbath for all mankind, then why didn't the Gentiles keep the Sabbath?

4. Did Jesus fulfill the Law? A. Yes.

Question 4.a.) If Jesus kept the law perfectly, and He said He was come to fulfill the law, and that the law would not pass away in even the smallest detail until the law was fulfilled, what leads you to believe that the law in any part is still binding today?

Question 4.b.) If it were in any part still binding, then wouldn't the Scripture which says (A.) that it would pass when it was fulfilled (Matthew5:17-47); (B.) that it was abolished (that is 'rendered idle') (Ephesians 2); (C.) that it was blotted out, taken out of the way, and nailed to the cross (Colossians 2)be contradicting itself?

Paul even goes so far as to say in II Corinthians 3, that the 10 commandments were the ministers of death written and engraven on stone. Moses' glory was that of those commandments whereas our glory is that of the Lord who is spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. Paul, on numerous occasions throughout his letters refernces the law of Moses as a law of bondage and yet here he contrasts the commandments written and engraven in stone, a law of death, with the writings of Christ (II Corinthians 3:3). James uses the same glass analogy to show that we are under the law of liberty in James 1:22-27.

I'm looking forward to your answers to these questions.

Christian

josiah said...

You are correct in identifying the audience as the Jews, more specifically the pharisees. And you are also correct to note that they were substituting human traditions for the clear word of God in regards to the Sabbath. Is it then possible that Jesus was just illustrating this fact and showing the absurdity of their traditions by saying that the Sabbath was made for man? Is it possible that He was telling them that they were placing much to much emphasis on the Sabbath?

I shall respond to the rest of your comment at another time.

josiah said...

You correctly state that Jesus did not say that the sabbath had been abolished. However you are incorrect to say that He could have said that. He could not have made that statement for it was not yet true. The law of Christ was not yet in effect! (See Hebrews 9:16-17) Secondly He did not abolish the sabbath or any other part of the Law of Moses, rather he fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17).

author@ptgbook.org said...

Hello Christian:

Question 1.a.) What are we to learn from the animal sacrifice Able offered? Able was righteoous (1 John 3:11-12, Matthew 23:34-35, Hebrews 11:4). He will be in the resurrection of the righteous and is among those who died in faith and for whom God has prepared a city (Hebrews 11:13-16). Therefore, He must have been converted. Genesis is a short book and does not give every detail of their lives. But it is evident He will be in the first resurrection, the resurrection of the saints who will rise to meet Christ in the air at His second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). So Able must have been instructed in the gospel, and God must have taught him. His sacrifice was pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:4, Genesis 4:2-5). He offered a firstborn from his flock of sheep. A lamb is often a symbol of Christ (Exodus 12:1-13, John 1:29, Revelation 5:1-14, 13:8, 14:1, 19:9). It represents Christ in his role as an atoning sacrifice, dying to pay the penalty for our sins in our place. The lesson I get from this is that Able in his offering was trusting in the sacrifice of Christ for forgiveness of his sins, while Cain was trusting in his works. Or it may be that Able was following God's instructions and Cain was not, or Cain may have simply not had the right attitude. All these things can go together. Another lesson is that the sacrifice of the lamb by Able is supporting evidence that God taught him about the future sacrifice of Christ. The other evidence is that he will be in the first resurrection, as I covered.

Question 1.b.) You ask, what purpose would there be to return to animal sacrifices since the blood of animals cannot provide atonement for our sins? I could also ask, what was the purpose of animal sacrifices at that time in ancient Israel? You might say, "substitute", until the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ was made. Agreed. But why a substitute at all? Why any animal sacrifices? Why not just have no animal sacrifices and just wait for Jesus Christ to be the sacrifice when His time came? Those animal sacrifices must have had a purpose. The only purpose I know of is educational. When Christ came, the disciples could better understand the meaning of Jesus Christ's death because they were familiar with the animal sacrifices. They could say, "Now I understand what these sacrifices represent! Now it all fits!" The sacrifices were designed to teach us about Christ, to add an element to our understanding. We learn that lesson now when we read about Passover and the sacrifices in the Old Testament, even though we do not perform them today.

Now, I have said that I thought the animal sacrifices would be restored sometime in the future, in millenium or later, for the purpose of education. If reading about animal sacrifices in God's Word can enhance our understanding of the sacrifice of Christ, how much more can it help people to understand it if they actually perform it. That is my opinion. But when you ask why God does things a certain way, I can only speculate. I can't say for certain WHY God will restore animal sacrifices. I only know that He will. And if it is not for the purpose of education, then I do not know why they will be restored. When Christ returns, we can ask Him.

How do I know they will be restored? The prophecy about the temple at the end of Ezekiel is clear that it describes animal sacrifices. So the question is, when does this take place. It has to be after Israel went into captivity, that is, the northern kingdom. There are two characteristics in this prophecy that have never taken place since that time. One, the healing waters. Two, the settlements of the 12 tribes of Israel in allotted individual areas, one specific territory for each tribe. Since this has never happened, it must be for the future. And this prophecy is given in literal language, not figures of speech, so it is not symbolic.

Question 1.c.) Why would we need animal sacrifices to teach us about Christ in the millenium when we have Christ reigning over us and can read about the sacrifices in the Bible? Humanity will certainly know Christ as world rular, and the Bible will also teach them about His sacrifice. But there may be a depth of understanding of His suffering and death that is enhanced by actually killing a living animal, or watching it be killed. And if that is not the reason, then I don't know why. And remember, it may not be the millenium. There is a general resurrection that follows the millenium as described in Ezekiel 37. Some of these people will be those who have already practiced the sacrificial system and God for some reason may have them continue it for a time while He teaches them the meaning.

Question 1.d.) Christ can certainly be represented as living water, or more precisely, the Holy Spirit can be represented as living water that comes from Christ. But the language of Ezekiel in this passage is literal. Ezekiel is not using figures of speech. The stream of living water is a physical reality in the future. That real stream may have a symbolic meaning as well for those people. They will be able to see how that river heals physical life, and God can teach them, "see, just as this water heals physical living things, so My Spirit can heal you spiritually." It is like the two trees in the garden of Eden. They were real trees, but they also represented something.

God does not use figures of speech or symobolic language to deceive. God does not always explain the meaning of symbols, but we know they are symbols. When you or I use symbolic language in speaking to others, we use figures of speech other people know are figures of speech. If I say, "it's raining cats and dogs outside" or "I have a frog in my throat", I use those words because I know you will not take them literally. If I thought you would take my words literally, I wouldn't say it that way. Likewise, God is not going to speak to us in literal language, then later after I and others take Him literally as He spoke, say to us, "I was only speaking symbolically." If that were the case, I couldn't believe the Bible because anything could be symbolic.

God uses symbolic language, but we can know they are symbols because God will make it clear that the language is figurative. That is not true about this passage in Ezekiel. It is literal.

Question 1.d.) Do not these cities represent the entirety of the tribal division of Israel? I don't think so, though I have not searched for the name of every city in the Bible to see what part of Israel it is from. It may be that there are some who are of the other tribes, but not those tribes as a whole. Note that Nehemiah 7:6 says that these were the people carried away by the king of Babylon who returned to Judah. Judah was the southern kingdom, made up of Judah, Benjamin, and much of Levi, plus a few individuals from other tribes in the northern kingdom who migrated a long time previously. But the whole northern kingdom made up of the other tribes was taken into captivity by Assyria and taken, not to Babylon, but to Assyria, more than a century before Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon took the Jews into captivity.

Even if all the tribes were represented, there is no evidence that these people were settled and separated into indivual territories according to their tribes as described in Ezekiel during the time of Christ or any time since Ezekiel was written.

Question 2.a.) "If I were to revise my will which defines which of my offspring receive my possessions and how they will receive them, could I bring elements of the previous will into the new will [yes] and would that mean that the previous will would still be binding? [no]". If you wanted to bring some part of a previous will into a new will, only the part that is included in the second will would be binding.

Question 2.b.) "Would my offspring be able to pick and choose which elements are binding between the two wills?" No. The second will would have to make it clear what is included. If the second will in your analogy represents the New Testament and the New Covenant, here are some New Testament scriptures that make it clear that the law of the ten commandments is included in the New Covenant: James 2:10-11, Mark 10:17-19 (notice the statement, "you know the commandments" - Jesus is referring to the commandments the man already knew, the ten commandments), Romans 7:7-14, Romans 3:31, Matthew 5:17-30. Moreover, the New Covenant is first DEFINED in the Old Testament. Here is the definition of the New Covenant: "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:33). God is not talking about a new spiritual law, but the same basic law that existed at that time, saying that He would write the law in our hearts. Then, the New Testament enhances and give more information about this New Covenant that God first speaks of in the Old Testament. The very fact that Paul speaks of a CHANGE in the law in regards to the priesthood shows that the law was not abolished. What is abolished is the death penalty the law imposes on all humanity because of our transgression of the law, and that is only abolished for those who repent of their sins, turn from sin, and begin to obey God, and it is only abolished because Jesus paid that penalty for us. So when we repent and accept Christ in faith, the penalty of the law is paid for by Christ and no longer hangs over our heads. Also see 1 John 3:4: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (King James Version). The law defines what sin is. The New Covenant requires repentance from sin (Acts 2:38). When Jesus said "sin no more" (John 5:14) it was the same as say, "don't transgess the law". Revelation describes the saints as those who keep God's commandments (Revelation 14:12). There are probably many more scriptures in the New Testament that affirm the validity of the spiritual law of God as described in the ten commandments.

Some things have changed. The priesthood has changed. Animal sacrifices are not now required. Physical circumcision is not now required. Each of these things have been specifically and clearly changed in the New Testament. For example, I could look up and show you very specific scriptures that show that physical circumcision is not required. But you will not find any such change saying that we do not have to obey the first commandment, the second commandment, the third commandment, the fourth commandment, or any other commandment in the ten commandments. You won't find these commandments abolished in the New Testament. They are still in effect.

Question 2.c.) "If Peter, James, The other apostles, Paul, and the Hebrew writer all say that the law is no longer valid as a means to salvation, can we say otherwise?" I don't say otherwise. I agree with this statement 100%. I will say it myself. The law is not valid as a means to salvation. I leave out the term "no longer" because the law was NEVER a means to salvation. But WHY is the law not a means to salvation? The reason is important. The law was never able to save anyone. The law cannot save because it was never intended to save. The purpose of the law is to define sin. And every person has sinned. Every man, woman, and child who has every lived has sinned at some time in their life, except Christ. Jesus was the only human who ever lived who did not sin, not even once. But all of the rest of us have sinned. The law imposes the death penalty, the second death in the lake of fire, for sin. The law provides no forgiveness. So under the law, every one of us is doomed. No one can save himself by keeping the law from now on because once you have sinned, that's it, one strike and you're out.

What the law does not provide, but is provided by Christ, is a way for us to get out from the death penalty imposed by the law for our sins. And this is not done by abolishing the law that imposes that penalty, but because Christ pays the penalty for us. Christ's death satisfies the just requirement of the law that we die because we've sinned. The law remains. Sin is sin. But when we sin, the law, still in effect says, "the death penalty on you!", and Christ, our savior says to the law, "I already paid that penalty by my death", and the law says, "ok, then it is paid". We don't have to pay it ourselves. It is Christ who saves us from the penalty of the law.

But there is a condition. Christ's death only pays the penalty for us if we accept Christ and come under the terms of the New Covenant. And that covenant has requirements. The requirements are faith and repentance. Repentance means repentance from sin, and sin is the breaking of God's law. We have to repent of breaking the commandments. We have to turn around our lives and resolve to stop breaking the commandments and starting living by every word of God. Once we make that decision, to obey God's commandments, and once we have faith in God and Christ and believe the gospel, we fulfill the requirement of the New Covenant. Then we can be forgiven. We come under the blood of Christ and the death penalty no longer hangs over our heads. And every time we slip up and sin, we can go to God and ask for forgiveness in Christ's name and we can be forgiven again. That was never available under the terms on the Old Covenant. But every time we sin we have to ask for forgiveness and pick ourselves up and try again, and keep trying to overcome sin and obey the commandments. Those are conditions for forgiveness and salvation. And it can be a struggle, as Paul describes in Romans 7:13-25.

Words such as "abolished", "changed", "blotting out" in reference to matters of the law are generally referring to either the death penalty required by the law (blotted out for us because Christ paid the penalty), or to those aspects of the law that are specifically changed in the New Testament, for example, animal sacrifices, the priesthood, or physical circumcision. I don't think you will find a scripture saying that the ten commandments are blotted out or the Sabbath.

I won't go into details right here, because this response is already being pretty long, but I believe there are also prophecies concerning Israel, not the Jews, given in the Old Testament, AFTER Israel went into captivity, prophecies that concern Israel today, in which God rebukes Israel for not keeping the Sabbath. I can see if I can find these if you want, but first let's resolve some of the scriptural issues we have started to talk about so far.

Question 3.a.) "Is there any reference to anyone keeping the Sabbath before the Law of Moses like there is of the animal sacrifices?" The Old Covenant was made with Israel after God gave the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), and it was made when Israel agreed to the Old Covenant and it was confirmed by the sprinking of blood (Exodus 24:1-8). But God calls the Sabbath "my law" before the Old Covenant existed, back in Exodus 16:4 and Exodus 16:27-30. This is proof that the law of God existed before the Old Covenant existed. Moreover, Exodus 18:15 show that Moses was already teaching God's law before the Old Covenant existed. Abraham kept God's law (Genesis 26:5). This must have included the Sabbath, because God made the Sabbath for mankind by resting on the seventh day of creation (Genesis 2:1-3).

Question 3.b.) "Doesn't the Scripture tell us the reason for the Sabbath?" Scripture gives reasons, and God may or may not have additional reasons why He created the Sabbath. I would not say that I know every reason God has for what he does. Every purpose you can find in scripture for the Sabbath is a valid purpose for it, and God may have other reasons for it as well.

Question 3.c.) "You say that the sabbath was a test. Can you cite another passage which states this?" No. This is the only place I can think of where the Sabbath is called a test. If there are others, I do not remember them right now. This scripture does not restrict the test to the amount of mana gathered on the sixth day. Israel also disobeyed God when they worked the seventh day by looking for it when they should have been resting.

Question 3.d.) I agree that Jesus has authority over the Sabbath and how it should be kept, and that the Sabbath is made to serve the good of man. I do not agree that the law forbade what the disciples were doing in picking and eating grain off the stalk as they are walking thru the fields and hungry. That is not working and that is not harvesting. They were not sinning. I left that context out because it doesn't change the two things I was focusing on, which are: one, the Sabbath was made, and two, it is for mankind as a whole, not just Israel. The first point focuses on the fact that the Sabbath was made, and the only record of it being made is in Genesis chapter two, so it must have existed before the Old Covenant. The second point focuses on the fact that it was made for mankind, not just Israel, which also shows it exists even apart from the Old Covenant. Nowhere have I found a scripture that says that the Old Covenant was made for man.

Question 3.e.) "If God made the Sabbath for all mankind, then why didn't the Gentiles keep the Sabbath?" God made the Sabbath before Adam sinned. If Adam and Eve remained obedient, I have no doubt this would be a different world today and people everywhere would be keeping the Sabbath and enjoying its benefits. But from the time of Adam's sin, the world took a different turn and mankind generally has rebelled against God's law. People do not keep the Sabbath for the same reason they put other things before the true God, worship idols, take God's name in vain, dishonor their parents, commit murder and adultery, steal, lie, and covet. Satan deceives the world and leads and tempts mankind into sin.

God, to accomplish His purpose, made Israel His special nation and taught Israel His law. But Israel also rebelled against God and did not always keep His law, and has been scattered as a result. Some of the Jews today keep the Sabbath, but many do not. When Christ returns, all nations will be taught to obey God's law. Until then, God's Church keeps God's law, but not the world as a whole.

God during this age of man does not force people to obey His commandments. The Sabbath exists and is available for those who are willing to obey it. Most are not. Many have never even heard of it. But it will be kept in the millenium by all races.

Question 4.a.). You left out the part, "till heaven and earth pass away". Also, it would make no sense for Jesus to place so much emphasis teaching his disciples that if they even look at a woman to lust for her they have committed adultery in their hearts, and if their eye causes them to sin to pluck it out because that is better than the lake of fire, if the law was to cease within three and a half years with the death of Christ. Was He teaching them to only avoid lusting after women for about 3 years till Jesus was crucified, and then the law would be completely fulfilled, done away, and they could resume lusting after that? If Christ's intent was to say that once He completely fulfilled the law by keeping it till His death that the law would end, then that would be a contradiction with His statement "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets". Also, He said He came to fulfill both the law and the prophets. This includes the fulfillment of all prophecy, which will not be completed until all prophecy has been fulfilled, including the millenium and the general resurrection. All that is included in the phrase "till all is fulfilled" and this hasn't happened yet. If Jesus was saying that the law would pass away when He was crucified, this would be a direct contradiction with James 2:10-11.

Question 4.b.) "If it were in any part still binding, then wouldn't the Scripture which says (A.) that it would pass when it was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-47); (B.) that it was abolished (that is 'rendered idle') (Ephesians 2); (C.) that it was blotted out, taken out of the way, and nailed to the cross (Colossians 2)be contradicting itself?"

Matthew 5:17-47 does not say that when the law and the prophets are fulfilled they would pass away. It doesn't say they will pass away after fulfillment. It merely says it will not pass away during the time it has not been fulfilled. But if you think this is wrong, it doesn't matter because the reference is not just to the law and Jesus's fulfillment of the law because of His obedience. It includes prophecy. Jesus fulfilled many prophecies concerning His first coming, but has yet to fulfill the prophecies of His second coming, the millenium, and the general resurrection, all of which are included in the Old Testament books known as "the prophets".

Ephesians 2:14 ("abolished") cannot be referring to the ten commandments or it would be in contradiction with James 2:10-11. Peter said there are some things in Paul's writings that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:14-16), and this may be one of them, and I do not say I understand everything Paul wrote. But a principle of Bible study is that we use clear scriptures to interpret unclear ones. Paul cannot be contradicting James, or the Bible contradicts itself. Paul here could be referring to the penalty of the law being abolished for Christians (because Christ paid the penalty) or to ordinances of the Old Covenant that are clearly abolished, like physical circumcision and animal sacrifices, or even to rules and regulations that the Jews, sitting in Moses's seat of authority, added to God's law, which made it a burden. But it cannot be referring to the ten commandments.

Paul himself was very strict, ordering the putting out of a man who was committing adultery, and strictly warning that those who were sinning (sin = transgression of the law) would not be in the Kingdom of God. There is no way he would say the ten commandments are abolished.

Colossians 2:14 may be referring to the penalty of the law, the death penalty, which was nailed to the cross. It was a requirement of the law that those who transgressed it would die the second death. This is what is against us, the death penalty, and has been wiped out. The death penalty is a requirement of the law. Likewise, II Corinthians 3, the ten commandments are a ministry of death because they impose the death penalty for their violation. The ten commandments provide no path to forgiveness. This is what the New Covenant provides. If we break the commandments, we can be forgiven upon repentance. But just because we have broken them and are forgiven is not an excuse to deliberately continue to break them.

When James speaks of the "word" being a law of liberty, I see nothing that limits it to the sayings of Jesus as recorded in the gospels. The "word" he is referring to seems to be the whole word of God, which is the whole Bible, including the ten commandments.

author@ptgbook.org said...

josiah:

"And you are also correct to note that they were substituting human traditions for the clear word of God in regards to the Sabbath. Is it then possible that Jesus was just illustrating this fact and showing the absurdity of their traditions by saying that the Sabbath was made for man?"

Yes, I think you are correct. Jesus was illustrating the fact that the Pharisees were substituting human traditions for the clear word of God in regards to the Sabbath, and showing the absurdity of their traditions which they added, which made the Sabbath a burden rather than a blessing as God intended, by showing that the Sabbath was made for man.

"Is it possible that He was telling them that they were placing much to much emphasis on the Sabbath?"

Maybe. Some commandments are greater than others (Matthew 5:19, 22:36-39). Some matters of the law are weighter than others (Matthew 23:23). The Pharisees may have been been placing too much emphasis on the Sabbath in comparision to other matters of the law. Nevertheless, even if the Sabbath is the least of the commandments, we should obey it (Matthew 5:19), not according to the traditions of the Pharisees who made it into a burden, but according to God's word. Also, notice how Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for neglecting the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). He points out that they paid tithe of mint and anise and cummin, which were smaller matters of law, and said they should have paid more attention to the greater matters of the law "without leaving the others undone". In other words, we should keep all of God's law, the large matters most importantly, but the small matters also.

author@ptgbook.org said...

josiah:

You seem to be saying that the Sabbath was in effect until the death of Jesus Christ, at which time the "law of Christ" replaced the law of the ten commandments including the Sabbath, and that the law of Christ does not include any obligation to keep the Sabbath. If that is what you believe, I can see why you would disagree with my statement that Christ could have said that the Sabbath was no longer in effect. I thought you were saying it was not in effect at that time.

Anyway, where do you get the doctrine that the law of Christ replaces the ten commandments and does not include the obligation to keep the Sabbath?

Christ fulfilled the laws of God by obeying them and fulfilled prophecies concerning His first coming. The fact that Jesus obeyed God's laws does not mean we are not also obligated to obey them. And Jesus only fulfilled some of the prophecies, not all of them. Some are yet to be fulfilled, and nothing will pass from the law until all is fulfilled.

josiah said...

Author: you have correctly surmised what I am saying, the law of Christ does indeed replace the law given on Mt.Sinai.

The doctrine that the law of Christ replaces the 10 commandments comes from the New Testament. We have already noted that Christ came to fulfill the law, the purpose of the law was in fact to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:23-25)therefore its work was finished. Galatians 4:21-5:1 shows without question that the law given on Mt. Sinai was against us, and was to be cast out.

There are many more references which teach that we are no longer under the law but these should be sufficient for you to chew on at this time.

author@ptgbook.org said...

It's not quite that simple. Paul uses the term "law" in many different ways. You wrote, "Galatians 4:21-5:1 shows without question that the law given on Mt. Sinai was against us, and was to be cast out." But Galatians 4:21-22 says, "Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman." When Paul says, "do you not hear the law?", by "law" in this case he is referring not to the ten commandments but to the books of Moses, for the account of the bondwoman is given before the ten commandments. This is just an example of how he uses the word "law" in many ways. The fact that Paul uses quotes from the books of Moses to support what he is saying shows that the books of Moses are not revoked.

If Paul is teaching that we are no longer to obey the ten commandments, he would be in contradiction with James 2:8-13, and also with himself in Romans 7:12, Romans 3:31, so whatever he saying, he cannot be saying that the ten commandments are revoked.

The context here is circumcision and trying to be justified with God from our past sins by keeping the law (Galatians 5:1-6). No amount of law-keeping can save us from the penalty of our past sins. For that we need the forgiveness that comes from Christ. I see nothing in the context that indicates Paul is saying that the spiritual law represented by the ten commandments is revoked. The context does show that the law of physical circumcision is no longer in effect.

josiah said...

Author: upon what basis do you understand the term law in Galatians 4:21ff to be anything other than the law given on Mt.Sinai?

author@ptgbook.org said...

Josiah:

There was more than one event at Mount Sinai. I can recall at least three things: the giving of the ten commandments, the giving of the laws of animal sacrifices, and the making of the Old Covenant, which was a covenant based on promises of national blessings only, in this life, without the Holy Spirit, and no eternal life in the Kingdom of God, in return for obedience to all the laws, statutes, and judgments including animal sacrifices. In the passage starting in Galatians 4:21, what is Paul referring to? Specifically, in verses 24 through 26 Paul is talking about the two covenants. Hagar and Mount Sinai represent the Old Covenant. Not the ten commandments. The Old Covenant. But Jerusalem and Sarah represent the New Covenant.

This is not referring to the ten commandments because the ten commandments are part of BOTH covenants - see Matthew 5:21-30, Mark 10:17-19, James 2:10-11, Ephesians 6:1-3, 1 Corinthians 7:19, Revelation 12:17, Revelation 14:12.

If there are passages in Galatians where Paul says that laws given at Mount Sinai are no longer in force, he must be speaking of laws other that the ten commandments, such as the laws of animal sacrifices, which were also detailed at Mount Sinai, or the statutes and judgments, or rules concerning the Levitical priesthood. He cannot be talking about the ten commandments being abolished because he would be contradicting other inspired passages in the Bible I have already referenced, and God cannot contradict Himself.

josiah said...

Author: one quick question as that is all that I have time for at this moment. What exactly was written on the tables of stone?

author@ptgbook.org said...

The ten commandments were written on stone. See 2 Corinthians 3:1-11. The ten commandments, written on stone, was a ministry of death because it represented the Old Covenant which gave the law of God and imposed the death penalty, but did not give the people the Holy Spirit which would enable them to obey the law in the spirit as well as the letter.

The whole problem with the Old Covenant is that the people did not obey it, and it did not provide for eternal life or the Spirit of God which would enable the people to obey the ten commandments in the spirit as well as the letter. It also did not provide forgiveness for sins already committed.

There is nothing wrong with the spiritual law that is codified by the ten commandments.

When Paul says that the "ministry of condemnation" is passing away, He is referring to the Old Covenant and to the penalty of the law, contrasting it with the better promises of the New Covenant.

Paul is using the tables of stone to represent the Old Covenant and the death penalty it imposes, without hope of forgiveness, and saying that that whole system is "passing away".

In Paul's day, there was the entire system of the Old Covenant - the law of God being written on stone instead of our hearts, the Levitical priesthood and the authority of that priesthood, the system of animal sacrifices and circumcision, and maybe a host of do's and don'ts the Pharisees added as regulations using their authority as priests sitting in Moses's seat given to them under the Old Covenant (Matthew 23:1-7). That whole system was passing away and replaced for Christians, and eventually will be for the whole world, with the New Covenant which takes the spiritual law of God, represented by the ten commandments, and writes it in our hearts, gives us the Holy Spirit which empowers us to obey the law, provides forgiveness for past transgressions of that law, and provides eternal life for those who keep the law in faith. The law hasn't passed away, but we are empowered to keep it by the Holy Spirit.

If the spiritual law represented by the ten commandments had passed away with the death of Jesus Christ, why would Paul say that it was "passing away", present tense? He would have said, "passed away", in the past, at the death of Christ which occurred many years before. He said passing away because there was still a Levitical priesthood going on in Jerusalem.

In your blog you asked me what my hermeneutic was, and I said that foundational to understanding scripture is the principle that the Bible cannot contradict itself. Paul cannot contradict himself by praising the law in one place and knocking it down in another. He cannot contradict Christ when a man asked Him what he should do to obtain eternal life and Christ said, "you know the commandments". He cannot contradict James who said if you violate one point of the law you violate the whole law, showing the law is still in effect (James 2:8-11).

Paul said that the law is holy, just, and good, and that the law helps us understand what sin is (Romans 7:7-12). He said that the law is spiritual (Romans 7:13-20). He said he delighted in the law of God (Romans 7:21-25). He said that he did not make the law void but establishes the law (Romans 3:31).

When Jesus said, "you know the commandments", in response to the question about "eternal life", this is a clear connection between the ten commandments and the New Covenant. The commandments that the man knew about were the ten commandments, not some new law of Christ. And this is not the Old Covenant because the Old Covenant did not provide for eternal life (Mark 10:17-19, Luke 18:18-20).

Look, when the man asked about eternal life, that put the entire context of the question and answer entirely in the domain of the New Covenant. From that point, his question and Christ's answer had NOTHING to do with the Old Covenant. Zero, zilch. The Old Covenant made at Mount Sinai between God and the nation of Israel NEVER promised or even mentioned eternal life. The man's question and Christ's answer was 100% New Covenant teaching. And before Jesus even began mentioning examples of the commandments He said, "you know the commandments". In other words, it was the whole set of commandments that the young man knew from his youth. That was the ten commandments, all ten of them. Christ was in effect saying that the young man already knew the answer - obey the ten commandments you already know about and you will have eternal life.

Paul apparently uses metaphors very freely and uses words like "law" different ways in close proximity to other uses of the word, which can be confusing. If you read what he says quickly in a particular passage and do not consider what else the Bible says, you can draw the conclusion: ten commandments = written on stone = passing away, but that is not what Paul is saying. That is probably why Peter said that some of what Paul has written is difficult to understand. If it was difficult for Peter who knew Christ and knew Paul, no wonder people have difficulty with some of Paul's writings today.

That is why when you asked me about hermeneutics, I said I try to get all the passages in the Bible on an issue and let clear scriptures interpret unclear ones. Paul's writings are not always clear, as Peter testifies in scripture, but other scriptures are clear. So I let the passages in James and the words of Christ, which are clear, interpret the words of Paul, which are sometimes not clear. I read Paul's writings keeping in mind what I already know from James, the gospel accounts, and other parts of the Bible.

Let's go through 2 Corinthians 3:1-11 closely, in detail.

Verse 2: "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart." Here Paul is showing that writing on the heart, that is the mind, is superior to writing on paper with ink or engraving on stone. It is better to write on the heart. Why? Because what is written on paper or stone is external to your mind, but what is written in your heart becomes part of your very character. Therefore writing God law, or God's truth, on your heart is superior to writing that law or that truth only on paper or stone. If something is written in your heart, you will be able to keep it.

Verse 6: "who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." The Old Covenant did not provide the gift of the Holy Spirit, so those under it only had the letter of the law. Without the Spirit of God, they could not understand and keep the law in its fullest spiritual intent (1 Corinthians 2:10, Matthew 5:21-30). They also had no forgiveness of sins, which is only provided under the New Covenant. Therefore, under the Old Covenant, the letter of the laws kills because it convicted those under it of breaking the law and bringing on the death penalty (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23) without providing any way for the death penalty to be removed and the Holy Spirit to be given, which would enable the receiver to obey the law. But the Spirit of God gives life, enabling us to have a relationship with God, and it is those who have the Spirit of God who will receive eternal life (2 Corinthians 5:4-6, Ephesians 1:13-14, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 8:11). Also, the Spirit of God is given after repentance and faith (and baptism) and the recipient's sins are forgiven, and the Spirit of God empowers a person to understand the fullest spiritual intent of the law so the law can be kept (2 Timothy 1:7, 1 Corinthians 2:10-15).

So the Old Covenant, represented by the ten commandments written on stone, kills, not because of any fault in the ten commandments, but because the Old Covenant pronounces "guilty" without providing for that guilt to be removed. But the New Covenant, represented by the Holy Spirit of God which writes the law of the ten commandments in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), not only helps us to understand and keep the law in its fullest spiritual intent (Matthew 5:21-30), but provides for forgiveness through the atoning sacrifice of Christ so the death penalty, which hangs over our heads under the Old Covenant, can be removed.

Verses 7-9: "But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory." The ten commandments as written on stone and not in the heart, represents the Old Covenant in this passage, and the Holy Spirit which writes the law of the ten commandments in our hearts represents the New Covenant. Why does the ten commandments written on stone represent the Old Covenant in this passage? Because they were written on stone at the same time and in the same place as the Old Covenant was made. But the spiritual law of God upon which the commandments written on stone were based existed before Israel came to Mount Sinai. Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, see KJV). Sin existed before Mount Sinai, so the law existed before Mount Sinai. The Sabbath existed before Mount Sinai for example, as I have proved in previous postings. So Paul here is showing the superiority, not of any "law of Christ" that replaces the ten commandments, but the superiority of the New Covenent, which writes the law of the ten commandments in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and gives life, over the Old Covenant, which writes the ten commandments on stone and pronounces us guilty without removing the guilt.

As far as the law is concerned, the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is where the law of the ten commandments is written, not what it contains. The law is the same in both covenants, but in one it is written on stone and in the other it is written in the heart. The law written on stone represents the Old Covenant which shows us our guilt but doesn't save us. The law written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit represents the New Covenant which saves us. Same law exactly.

Verses 10-11: "For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious." What is passing away? The law of the ten commandments? Impossible. The law of the ten commandments is part of the New Covenant, which is not passing away. The proof that the law of the ten commandments is part of the New Covenant is that a man asked Jesus a New Covenant question, how to have eternal life, and Jesus answer with a New Covenant answer: "you know the commandments". The commandments the man knew were the ten commandments, all ten of them (Mark 10:17-19, Luke 18:18-20). Jesus mentioned some of them as examples to show that He was talking about the ten commandments, but He stressed the ones relating to love of neighbor because this is where most Jews at that time were falling short. But that doesn't mean that the first four of the commandments are revoked.

And if you say that the ten commandments, or at least some of them, ended after Christ fulfilled the law by being crucified, that still would not explain this verse. If the law of the ten commandments ended, that is, "passed away", with the death of Christ, then Paul would not say that it was PASSING away, that is, in the process of passing away, many years after Jesus died. Whatever Paul is talking about, it was in the process of passing way but had not yet completely passed away. What was that? The Levitical priesthood and the Old Coventant. Sacrifices were still being made in Jerusalem. Christians no longer need to keep them, but the Levitical priesthood and the Old Covenant for Israel was passing away. It probably ended completely in 70 AD.

It was the whole system of the Old Covenant, which only wrote the ten commandments on stone and not the heart, the Levitical priesthood, the authority of the priests who sat in Moses's seat (Matthew 23:1-7) and the traditions that were built up in that system (Matthew 15:1-9) that was passing away. It was replaced by the New Covenant which writes the law of the ten commandments, all ten of them, in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).

josiah said...

Author: This being harvest season I only have time for 2 quick questions.
1. When Moses brought the tables of stone down the Mt. (second time) where were they kept?

2. Could you please rephrase the following sentence, I am having trouble understanding what you are trying to say: "It was the whole system of the Old Covenant, which only wrote the ten commandments on stone and not the heart, the Levitical priesthood, the authority of the priests who sat in Moses's seat (Matthew 23:1-7) and the traditions that were built up in that system (Matthew 15:1-9) that was passing away."

josiah said...

One question I forgot, "Were the 10 commandments part of the covenant or just the representation of it?

author@ptgbook.org said...

Josiah:

I think the commandments written on stone were kept in the ark, if I recall correctly. For the Church under the New Covenant, they are kept in our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31:33).

When I refer to the "whole system of the Old Covenant", I am referring to that which Paul says is "passing away". What was in the process of "passing away" in Paul's day when he wrote this epistle?

It is obvious this cannot be the ten commandments because scripture cannot contradict itself. So what is he referring to, since it cannot be the ten commandments?

What was passing away at that time? It must have been the Old Covenant with the Levitical priesthood. There is a strong connection between each covenant and the priesthood that covenant provides. The Old Covenant is tied with the Levitical priesthood, and the New Covenant is tied with the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Two covenants, two priesthoods, but one law, the ten commandments, for both. Also, both priesthoods were ruling priesthoods, so each priesthood had authority over certain issues of judgement within the covenant it represented. This means the Levitical priests had authority under the Old Covenant to make binding decisions such as washing of hands, etc. for those under the Old Covenant (Deuteronomy 17:8-13, Matthew 23:1-3). Yet in the time of Jesus Christ, they were abusing and misusing that authority, and Christ rebuked them for that (Matthew 15:1-10, Mark 7:5-13).

But after death and resurrection of Christ, the New Covenant became available for the Church of God, and the members of the Church were no longer under the Old Covenant. For Christians, the Levitical priesthood, including the rules and regulations that the priests added according to the traditions of men, no longer had authority over them, but the priesthood of Jesus Christ has authority over Church members. This is why Peter and the apostles had to disobey the Levitical priesthood in order to obey the priesthood of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:29).

But when Paul wrote, the Levitical priesthood still existed. It had some authority over Jews living in the land of Jerusalem and Judah who were not Christians (Acts 23:1-5). But it was "passing away". Those under it when they converted to Christianity were no longer under it. It may have come to an end in 70 AD with the fall of Jerusalem. It does not exist today. So the Levitical priesthood was passing away, in that sense, and with it, the entire Old Covenant. Not the ten commandments, because the ten commandments are the same in the New Covenant as well as the old, as I have already shown you.

This is what I mean by the "whole system": the Old Covenant with its promises of national blessings in return for obedience, the Levitical priesthood, the animal sacrifices performed by that priesthood, and the authority of that Levitical priesthood to make binding decisions, authority which they misused by adding rules and regulation that became a burden for the people. That whole system was in the process of passing away and being replaced by the New Covenant which promised to write God's law, the ten commandments, in our hearts and minds instead of stone (Jeremiah 31:33), promised the Holy Spirit and eternal life, and has the priesthood of Jesus Christ and the authority of Jesus Christ to make binding decisions through the Church.

Now, this is my best opinion about what Paul referred to as that which was "passing way". And if I am mistaken about this, if this is not what Paul is referring to, then he must have been talking about something else, but DEFINITELY NOT the law of the ten commandments. Other scriptures, which I have shown you, rule that out. The ten commandments were not passing away.

"Were the 10 commandments part of the covenant or just the representation of it?". The ten commandments were part of both the old and new covenants. The ten commandments, that is the spiritual law of the ten commandments, is never the representation of the Old Covenant. But the ten commandments written on TABLETS OF STONE are a representation of the Old Covenant in some of Paul's writings. But not the law of the ten commandments themselves.

The ten commandments were part of the Old Covenant. The ten commandments, WRITTEN ON STONE, represented the Old Covenant in some of Paul's writings.

The ten commandments are also part of the New Covenant, but written in our hearts, not on stone.

It isn't the ten commandments that represents the Old Covenant in Paul's writings. It is the fact that they were written on stone, not in the heart, that represents the Old Covenant in Paul's writings.

josiah said...

Author:thanks for the explanation of your sentence, I now understand what you were trying to say. You are incorrect in your assertion that both priesthoods were ruling. If you read the passage from Deuteronomy carefully the priest were to teach and a judge was to judge. The passage from Matthew mentions nowhere a priest, only scribes and Pharisees. Some of the pharisees may have been priest but certainly not all same is true for scribes. The apostle Paul for example was a Pharisee before his conversion and was of the tribe of Benjamin so could not have been a priest. Therefore your assertion is invalid. See Philippians 3:5.

What was the ark where the tables of stone were kept called?

author@ptgbook.org said...

Read the passage in Deuteronomy again. The priests had authority. And the Levitical priesthood was passing away in Paul's day.

If memory serves me, the ark was called the ark of the covenant, but you can look it up in a concordance if you are not sure. What is your point? I already said that the law of the ten commandments is included in both old and new covenants, so it is entirely appropriate that they would be in the ark of the covenant.

The ark of the covenant, being a representation of the Old Covenant, had God's law within it because central to the Old Covenant was Israel's promise to obey God. There is no corresponding physical ark of the New Covenant to make a comparision, but if you need a representation of the New Covenant, you can use the words of Jesus Christ and the entire New Testament, which also affirm the validity of the ten commandments within the New Covenant.

In the Old Covenant, the ten commandments were written on stone and kept in the ark. In the New Covenant, the ten commandments are re-affirmed by the teachings of Jesus Christ and by New Testament writers and are written in the hearts of Christians, not on stone.

You force me to keep repeating myself.

The ten commandments are part of the Old Covenant.
The ten commandments are part of the New Covenant.

Not either-or. Both.

You keep showing me things that prove that the ten commandments are included in the Old Covenant, and I agree, but that doesn't affect the discussion of whether or not they are also part of the New Covenant. They are, as scriptures which I have shown you prove.

josiah said...

I have read again the passage you pointed out in Deuteronomy. If you read carefully paying attention to the grammar you will find that they were to come before the priests AND the judge. And is a conjunction which joins or connects. They were to come before both. The priests had the authority to teach what the law said but the judgment or rule in the matter rested upon the judge not the priest! I stand upon this clear teaching. The Levitical priesthood was not a ruling priesthood! Teaching yes, ruling no.

I get the idea that you are becoming frustrated with my simple questions. I am not asking you to repeat yourself, that is your choice. In fact I like simple answers to simple questions. You could have simply answered "the ark of the covenant" and I would have certainly understood all that I desired to know with my question.

Please be patient with me. I prefer to lead you to discovery rather than make declarations, in this way the scriptures themselves do the teaching.
The tables of stone whereon were written the ten commandments were also known by another name, what was it?

author@ptgbook.org said...

Hi Josiah,

If the priests never ruled, made binding decisions, or pronounced judgement, they would not have been included in the requirement in Deuteronomy 17:8-13 to come to the priests and judges for difficult decisions. The instruction would be to only go to the judge for the decision, not the priests.

When Jesus was put on trial, He was taken to the high priest for judgement. I don't think this was just so the high priest could teach Him.

I am sorry if I seemed impatient.

Deuteronomy 9:9 and Hebrews 9:4 refer to the tables of stone as the tables or tablets of the covenant.

josiah said...

The picture in Deuteronomy 17 is of one coming before the priests and judge with a problem. Upon hearing the question the priest would give the teaching of the law as it applied, perhaps even recommending the solution much as an attorney would in our modern court. Then the judge would render his judgment. If the priests had the authority you give them what would have been the need for the judge?

In the case of Jesus you have nothing more than a "lynch mob" much like history records such trials in the "wild west" of this country. This mob was made up of the high priest, chief priests, scribes and elders. In Matthews account the high priest turned to the mob for recommendation.

In order to prove your point that the priests ruled you will have to have something much more substantial than a lynch mob.

Yes they were called the tables of the covenant. But there is another name given them. (Hint: Exodus 35:29)

josiah said...

Here is your question again.

Yes they were called the tables of the covenant. But there is another name given them. (Hint: Exodus 35:29) What is it?

author@ptgbook.org said...

You must know what they are called, or you would not know there is another name given to them. Are you asking me questions you already know the answer to? Before I would look this up in a concordance, I would have to see some possible relevancy to the topic, and right now I don't. The ten commandments written on stone can sometimes represent the Old Covenant, because they are written on stone, not on the heart, which is one of the characteristics of the Old Covenant, in contrast to the New Covenant which provides for God's law to be written on our hearts, not on stone. So in asking what the stone tablets are called, you are making reference to something that can represent the Old Covenant. But so far I have approached this topic from the point of view of the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant, because I think you and I both agree that Christians are under the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant. If you have something to say about what the stone tablets are called and you think it applies to this thread, say it.

Exodus 35:29 says, "The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the Lord, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the Lord, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done". Is this the scripture you intended to cite? If there is a reference here to the tablets of stone or to the law of the ten commandments, it escapes me.

josiah said...

My sincere apologies, the reference is Exodus 34:29.

Yes I am asking you questions that I already know the answer to, at least in this thread. I have already stated my purpose for these questions, and that is that I like to let the scriptures speak rather than myself, that way if you disagree with the scriptures it is not my fault. Also it cannot be said that it is just my opinion. We will not be judged by the standard of your opinion nor mine, praise God!

Since you are growing weary of my methods I shall try to draw some conclusions using the scriptures we have talked about and some others. Please follow carefully.
1. The Ten Commandments were written on the tables of stone at Mt. Sinai (2 Corinthians 3:1-11 your reference.) Deuteronomy 10:4.
2. The table of stone were called the “tables of the covenant” Deuteronomy 9:11.
3. The tables of the covenant were kept in the “ark of the covenant” Deuteronomy 10:5.
4. The table of the covenant were also called “the tables of the testimony” Exodus 34:29.
5. The ark of the covenant was also called “the ark of the testimony” Exodus 25:22.
6. The covenant of the 10 commandments was made with “Israel only” that were alive there that day at Mt. Horeb (Sinai) Deuteronomy 5:1-22.
7. Jeremiah spoke of a new covenant, not like the old one made at Mt. Sinai, Jeremiah 31:31ff.
8. Paul said we are no longer under it Galatians 4:21-31.

Will you disagree with the word of God?

author@ptgbook.org said...

Josiah,

Thank you for the clarification.

I agree with points 1 through 5.

I can agree with point 6, but with clarification. You can call the Old Covenant "the covenant of the ten commandments" if you want, and I have no problem with that, provided it is understood that the the New Covenant is also a covenant of the ten commandments. The ten commandments are part of both covenants, as I proved by the words of Jesus Christ (Mark 10:17-19) and the writing of James (James 2:10-11).

When Jesus said, "you know the commandments" and named some of them as examples, this is a direct reference to the ten commandments. Christ said to the man, "you know the commandments". What are commandments that the man knew? The man knew the ten commandments. What is the context of the answer, the Old Covenant or the New Covenant? It has to be the New Covenant for the following reason. Jesus's answer was in response to the question, "what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life"? This was a question about the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant. Why? Because eternal life was never offered under the terms of the Old Covenant, but it is offered under the New Covenant. So Jesus answered the New Covenant question by saying, obey the commandments you already know, that is, the ten commandments.

Likewise, James shows that the ten commandments are still in effect when he wrote his epistle. He says if we break one point of the law we break the whole law and become guilty of transgressing the law. That must mean that the law James is talking about was still in effect at the time he wrote the epistle. Which law? The ten commandments because James quotes two of them as examples. James also says WHY we become guilty if we transgress one point of the law. It is because He who said, "do not commit adultery" also said "do not commit murder". Who said, "do not commit adultery" and "do not commit murder"? God when He spoke the ten commandments to Israel.

There is no way that James could write this passage the way he did if the law of the ten commandments was not in effect at the time he wrote his epistle.

Therefore the law of the ten commandments is the same law in the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

So what is the difference between the two covenants? Not the law. The promises. The New Covenant provides better promises than the Old Covenant. But the law of the ten commandments is the same in both covenants. It is the promises that are different, not the ten commandments (Hebrews 8:6). And one of those "better promises" is to write God's law in our hearts, not on tablets of stone (Hebrews 8:8-10). Another better promise is forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 8:12).

I agree with point 7, but again with clarification. The King James Version and the New King James Version both use the word "according" rather than "like", which I think are better translations. The New Covenant is not according to the Old Covenant. Why? Because the New Covenant is based on better promises, not a different law.

How do I know the New Covenant includes the same law of the ten commandments as the Old Covenant? Because the words of Jesus and the writing of James as I showed you confirm the ten commandments in a New Covenant context.

In point 8, you say "we are no longer under it", if the "it" you are referring to is the Old Covenant, you are correct. We are no longer under the Old Covenant.

The Old Covenant gives birth to bondage, as Paul wrote, because it requires obedience to the law, but provides no avenue for forgiveness when we slip up and stumble, and it does not provide the promise of the Holy Spirit which helps a person understand and keep the law in its fullest spiritual intent. So for those under the Old Covenant, the penalty of eternal death always hung over their heads with no way of escape, which is a form of bondage. They were trapped in a cycle of sin, guilt, and death from which they had no escape. But the New Covenant provides the way out, not by abolishing the law, but by providing forgiveness when we break it and repent and by giving us the Holy Spirit to help us keep it.