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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Did God designate a day? (Part III)

Christ was once asked about which one of the commandments was the greatest. (Matthew 22:36) He answered: “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 neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Christ characterized these two commandments from the Law as summarizing the principles behind everything else that had been written in it and the prophets! What’s more, other Scriptures make clear that Christ was summarizing God’s Fundamental Law (The Ten Commandments) in referencing these particular laws. (Matthew 19:16-26)
Paul summarized the last six of The Ten Commandments in the same way. (Romans 13:9) He went on to say: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10) Thus, for Christ and Paul, there were important spiritual principles that underscored all of the dos and don’ts. That is why Paul had earlier written to the saints at Rome: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” (Romans 2:29) In other words, the spiritual principle behind the command trumps the command itself. He continued: “But now are we delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6)
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews expounds on the Christian attitude toward the Law as it pertains to the Old and New Covenants. After discussing the fact that the ceremonial requirements of the Old Covenant were mere shadows of the heavenly reality, he concluded that Christ has “obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant…” (Hebrews 8:1-6) He continued: “For if the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.” (Hebrews 8:7) Next, he goes on to quote the prophecy about the nature of the New Covenant quoted above from the book of Jeremiah. (Hebrews 8:8-12) and observes: “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that wich decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:13)
In chapter nine, he recounts the prescriptions for the design of the Holy of Holies and the observance of the Day of Atonement. (Hebrews 9:1-7) He then explains that these things were temporary fixtures pointing to the more enduring work of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 9:8-28)
The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews concludes his discourse on the differences between the Old and New Covenants with this statement: “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:1-10)
In summary, these passages from Hebrews reveal several facts concerning the proper Christian perspective on the Old and New Covenants: 1) The Old Covenant was based on provisions in The Law that foreshadowed the work of Jesus Christ, 2) The Old Covenant has been superseded by the New and 3) Christ’s sacrifice was efficacious for the removal of the sins of everyone who is a party to the New Covenant. Hence, it is reasonable to conclude that the provisions of The Law that pointed to the work of Christ are no longer necessary under the terms of the New Covenant.

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