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Sunday, October 5, 2014

God's Law (Part 1)

Christians have debated the subject of just how much of the Mosaic Law applies to them for centuries. Indeed, many would argue (and not without some justification) that Christians have debated the role of the Law within the context of the New Covenant since the founding of the Church in the First Century. Some Christians have adopted the view that God's saints have absolutely no obligation to obey any of the Law under the "Dispensation of Grace" that was inaugurated by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Others have argued that Christians are obligated to keep almost the entire Law - including Sabbaths (weekly and annual) and instructions regarding clean and unclean meats. Needless to say, these differences of opinion have invited charges of inconsistency and "cherry picking" from those outside of the Christian community.

First, it should be acknowledged that there has existed an almost universal understanding within the Christian community that Christ's sacrifice on the cross made the old animal sacrificial system obsolete. Under the terms of the New Covenant, almost everyone acknowledges that burnt, grain, peace, sin and trespass offerings are no longer necessary because of Christ's sacrifice. In addition to these, most Christians would acknowledge that Christ's position as High Priest within their theological construct renders irrelevant those instructions regarding the tabernacle, altars (and other furnishings), priestly garments, circumcision, farming practices and the treatment of skin diseases and mildew. Hence, most of us begin this discussion by excluding substantial portions of the Mosaic Law as being applicable to Christians.

In the light of this reality, I think that it's appropriate to ask ourselves a few questions about the relevance of God's Law to Christians: How do we justify the acceptance of some portions of the Law while excluding others? In short, is there some rationale available to us for treating the Law in this fashion? Or Does "all or nothing" really make more sense? Were Christ and Peter opposed to Paul's understanding of the subject? Did Jewish Christians have a different view of the Law from that of their Gentile brethren? These are important questions, and Christians have debated the answers to them for nearly two millennia!

This post will begin a series of articles that will explore some of the Scriptural, historical and logical basis for Christian attitudes towards God's Law. We will look at how different groups have defined the roles of Law and Grace within the Church. And we will attempt to answer the questions that we have asked by drawing on available evidence from both the Old and New Testaments of the Judeo-Christian Bible.