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Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Armstrongism Covenant Dilemma

In reviewing a recent CGI sermon titled Is It a New or Renewed Covenant? by Jan Kowalczyk, I was reminded about the dissonance inherent within the theology of Armstrongism relative to any discussion the Old and New Covenants. Indeed, it occurred to me that the title of this message seemed to epitomize their dissonance on the subject. In other words, if one accepts the fact that there is a "New" Covenant, doesn't that designation imply/suggest that the "Old" Covenant has been abolished or superseded? And, if the Old Covenant has been abolished/superseded, how can we justify our continued observance of some of its provisions (e.g., clean and unclean meats, Sabbath and Holy Day observance, tithing, etc.)?

Now, because of my own background in Armstrongism, I was aware that a great deal of time and energy had been devoted to arguments over Law vs. Grace and explaining why Christians were still obligated to observe certain provisions of the Torah. Nevertheless, after reviewing the corpus of Worldwide Church of God literature at the online Herbert W Armstrong Searchable Library, I was surprised to not find a single book or booklet devoted to the topic. Indeed, there was only ONE Plain Truth article by Raymond Cole (December 1958) titled The New Covenant - Does It Abolish God's Law? and Two Good News articles - one by Garner Ted Armstrong (June 1976) titled Has the New Covenant Been Made Yet? - the other by Herbert W Armstrong (December 1978) titled THE PLAIN TRUTH ABOUT THE COVENANTS. I was frankly shocked. How could they have so thoroughly avoided directly confronting the issue of the Old and New Covenants? Did they consider their many forays into the traditional Law vs. Grace debate to have sufficiently addressed the subject of the covenants? OR Had they intentionally avoided the topic because of the obvious difficulties it presented for their theology?

In Raymond Cole's article, as the title suggests, the thesis was that the New Covenant had NOT abolished the Law which had been made a part of the terms of the Old Covenant (at least not all of it). Moreover, it was framed in terms of the familiar debate. In his opening paragraph, Cole wrote: "It is commonly assumed that the old covenant was the ten commandment law-that the new covenant contains only grace and promises, but no law." Cole went on to stress that the Old Covenant had been a kind of marriage between God and Israel, and that God had had to eventually divorce Israel because of their continuous sinning (breaking of the law which was part of the terms of that contract/agreement). In terms of the New Covenant, Cole believed that Christ had "not yet completed His work of confirming the covenant." He went on to observe that we must: "Bear in mind that the new testament or will of Jesus Christ has been in force since His death. But His testament or will has conditions of obedience which we must meet before we can inherit the promises. The Greek word for 'testament' also means 'covenant.' Since the new testament involves our agreement to fulfill these conditions, it becomes a covenant -and that new covenant will not be confirmed with us-we won’t inherit the promises-until we are first made immortal and have God’s nature so we can’t sin (II Peter 1:4). Since 'sin is the transgression of the law' (I John 3:4), one of the conditions to eternal life involves quitting sin-and KEEPING THE COMMANDMENTS!"  

In the first Good News article to actually address the issue of the "New" Covenant, GTA had carefully gone through the various covenants recorded in the Old Testament before finally addressing the subject of the New Covenant. For him, the entire question came down to one of timing - that is when the New Covenant would actually begin. The thesis of GTA's article is nicely summarized by a couple of brief paragraphs. He wrote: "Millions erroneously believe that the New Covenant of which Jeremiah spoke is already in full force and effect on this earth today. But many clear prophecies in the Bible tell us otherwise!" Armstrong went on to assert that "Millions assume the time of the 'New Covenant' began with Christ's human ministry on the earth. They carelessly assume that all 'Christianity' is under the terms and conditions of the New Covenant today, which, they erroneously think, frees them from any obligation to obey God!" In other words, for GTA, the New Covenant hadn't even begun yet, and Christians were consequently still obligated to observe at least some of the terms of the Sinaitic or Old Covenant!

When Herbert Armstrong finally addressed the topic, not surprisingly, he approached the subject from yet another perspective, but he gave a nod to what had previously been written by his surrogates. He opened his article by underscoring the importance to the Church of understanding the Old and New Covenants. This was followed by a somewhat peculiar discourse where he emphasized the distinction between a testament and a covenant (both English words are translations of the same Greek word in the original manuscripts). Like Cole before him, he emphasized that the Old Covenant between God and Israel was like a "marriage contract," and that it was contingent upon their obedience. Then, like his son, he observed that the New Covenant had not yet been fully implemented. He wrote: "The Old Covenant is ended...Yet the new covenant HAS NOT YET BEEN MADE! Its terms and conditions have been revealed to us through Christ. We ministers preach it. And even though as a final MARRIAGE COVENANT it has not been made that is, in contract language, signed, sealed and delivered, those whom God has called are privileged to have God's law written in our hearts, to have the life-begetting sin-overcoming Holy Spirit to open our minds to spiritual UNDERSTANDING, to guide us in God's ways, and. within us, to EMPOWER us to overcome Satan and DO THE WORK OF GOD!" He concluded by warning his followers not to confuse the Old Covenant with the Old Testament and asserted that "the Worldwide Church of God is based on THE WHOLE BIBLE!"

In Mr. Kowalczyk's sermon (referenced above), the very notion of a "New" Covenant is attacked. For him, the problem isn't completely resolved by talking about when the covenant is/was inaugurated. Instead, he proposes that the current dispensation be regarded as a modification or renewal of the terms of the Old Covenant. For him, the "Old" Covenant wasn't abrogated/repudiated/revoked/repealed - it was merely altered or adjusted by Christ to ensure that God could keep the promises he had made under the initial terms of the covenants outlined in the Torah! To be sure, Mr. Kowalczyk believes that two of those changes/alterations were significant (1. Christ as the one and only sacrifice necessary for its implementation, and 2. that Christ's sacrifice had made the forgiveness of sins possible (something that he asserts was impossible under the terms of the original covenant).

In times past, I posted here an article titled The Two Covenants which sought to differentiate between the Old and New Covenants without resorting to the tired arguments of Law vs. Grace and parsing the meaning of Paul's discourses on the topic. And, although that article generated a great deal of interest and commentary, most of my Armstrongite friends remained unpersuaded by it. In fact, in this brief review of their pronouncements on the subject, we begin to see why they have been so reluctant to address the topic, and why the few times they have ventured to do so have been so tentative and muddled! Indeed, it has become clear to me that the reason Armstrongites have been so reticent about commenting on the two covenants is that the very act of doing so presents inherent problems for their narrative about incorporating certain elements of the Old Covenant into the obligations of Christians operating under the New Covenant! In other words, if there really is such a thing as a "New" Covenant (and its terms are currently binding on Christians), then it necessarily follows that the "Old" Covenant (and its terms) have been replaced with something different - that the terms and conditions of the contract between God and man have changed!

That this is the case is thoroughly supported by both testaments of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. First, a New Covenant was anticipated in the pages of the Old Testament. It was anticipated in the prediction of a future confrontation between the woman's and serpent's offspring (Genesis 3:15), and God's promise to Israel that he would one day raise up a prophet for them like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). Likewise, it was implied in many prophecies related to the coming Messiah (Isaiah 9:6-7, 11, 53, etc.). The New Covenant is also explicitly predicted by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-33). Indeed, the fact that the New Testament (as we know it) did NOT exist in the First Century, and that the apostles and early Church preached Christ exclusively out of what we now refer to as the Old Testament is proof enough that the Old anticipated the New!

In the New Testament, however, the reality of the New Covenant is made even more explicit! The gospels make plain that the New Testament/Covenant is represented in Christ's blood (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20). Moreover, the Apostle Paul confirmed the symbolism which Christ had established for the Eucharist in his first letter to the saints of Corinth (I Corinthians 11:25). Moreover, in his second letter to those saints, Paul contrasted the OLD with the NEW. He wrote: "It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!" (II Corinthians 3:5-11, NLT)

Paul's assertions here about the nature of the New Covenant contrasted with the nature of the Old Covenant is the point that confounds Armstrongites more than any other and is largely responsible for their avoidance of the subject of the two covenants. They quote the passage that Christ came NOT to destroy the Law or the prophets (Matthew 5:17-20), and it literally blinds them to the very thing which Christ accomplished in inaugurating the New Covenant. They can't see that he didn't abolish the Law - that he FULFILLED it and the prophets for us! Moreover, Christ transformed the Law for us by distilling it into two great principles (Love for God and love for neighbor). Hence, under the terms of the New Covenant, Christians are obligated to keep the spirit and intent of the law going forward - not to get bogged down in trying to observe all of the dos and don'ts that were part of the terms of the Old Covenant! Christ instructed his apostles to "Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you." (Matthew 28:20)

And, for the record, the original Greek word translated into English as "NEW" means NEW - it doesn't imply renewal or revision/alteration/modification of that which previously existed! According to Strong's, the Greek word is "kainos," and it implies something that is new, recently made, fresh, unused, unprecedented and novel! - See G2537 - kainos - Strong's Greek Lexicon (kjv) (blueletterbible.org) In other words, the Greek word is the antithesis of that which is old, antiquated, or archaic. Hence, the use of the word in this connection in the ancient manuscripts of the New Testament sets up the contrast with that which is old!

The stark contrast between the terms of the Old Covenant and those of the New Covenant are further underscored by the accounts of the Jerusalem Council recorded in the book of Acts and Paul's epistle to the Galatians (an event which is not ignored by Armstrongists, but that is often dismissed by them as not having any bearing on the subject of their continued observance of certain provisions of the Old Covenant). Nevertheless, for objective students of the Bible, these two accounts make very plain that the Church decided that Gentile Christians were not obligated to observe the provisions of the Old Covenant!

In the book of Acts, the account opened with a summary of the circumstances which prompted the Church council at Jerusalem. We read there: "While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: 'Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.' Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question." Acts 15:1-2) After a long discussion, we are informed that Peter stood up and said: "So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus." (Verses 10-11) Later, James also addressed the assembly, and concluded that "my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations.” (Verses 19-21) Moreover, we are informed that the overwhelming majority of the assembly concurred with what Peter and James had said - as evidenced by the letter that was eventually addressed to the Gentiles (verses 22-31).

In his epistle to the saints of Galatia, Paul recounted his memories of his encounter with the original apostles in similar terms. He wrote: "In fact, James, Peter, and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews. Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do." (Galatians 2:9-10) Later, when Peter visited him, we are told that Paul confronted him with this statement: "You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” (Verses 15-16) Hence, for Paul at least, it was clear that Christians were under no obligation to observe the tenets of the Old Covenant! He told the Colossians that there was nothing inherently wrong with Christians observing some of those provisions - as long as they didn't try to impose them on others as necessary obligations under the New Covenant (Colossians 2:16-17).

Finally, if we didn't have any other scriptures to reference on this subject, the epistle to the Hebrews would be sufficient to demonstrate that the New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant! In the seventh chapter of that epistle, we read that Christ represented a different priesthood from the Levitical one established under the terms of the Old Covenant. In fact, we read there that Jesus is a guarantor of a "better" covenant. Likewise, the ninth chapter of that same epistle opens with the statement that the "first covenant between God and Israel had regulations for worship and a place of worship here on earth." (Verse 1) The first implies a second. Continuing, we read: "Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant." (Verses 13-15) Once again, contrasting the two covenants, the anonymous author of the epistle informs us: "That is why even the first covenant was put into effect with the blood of an animal. For after Moses had read each of God’s commandments to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, and sprinkled both the book of God’s law and all the people, using hyssop branches and scarlet wool. Then he said, 'This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you.' And in the same way, he sprinkled blood on the Tabernacle and on everything used for worship. In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. That is why the Tabernacle and everything in it, which were copies of things in heaven, had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals. For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf." (Verses 18-24)

Hence, we can see that Scripture makes plain that there is a clear distinction to be made between the provisions and parties to those of the Old and New Covenants. In other words, the view that the New Covenant is merely an update of the Old is inconsistent with what is revealed in Scripture. Moreover, while it is clear that the provisions of the New Covenant are not yet universal (thus, they have certainly not reached their full extent or application), it is also clear that God has already abrogated the old agreement, and Jesus Christ has already instituted a new one. Scripture clearly reveals that the New Covenant is currently in force and will remain in force throughout eternity! 

13 comments:

  1. Miller:

    I am very interested in this topic. I am working my way through this article and will read your linked article. It seems that there are as many ideas about the New Covenant as there are about the Imago Dei. Predictably, the Armstrongist view of the NC will be something that preserves Sabbath keeping.

    Neo

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    1. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject.

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  2. Miller:

    " Moreover, while it is clear that the provisions of the New Covenant are not yet universal (thus, they have certainly not reached their full extent or application)..."

    Could you clarify that. Thanks.

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  3. In response to one of my posts on Banned, an Armstrongist made the statement that the New Covenant has no terms. I was puzzled by this because it clearly seems to have terms and I cited some. This person never really came back with a cohesive rebuttal. I think the person was just echoing what had been read in Armstrongist literature. And I would guess the logic goes that the only terms are in the Old Covenant and so the NC is just a new agreement about the OC terms. Hence, the OC Law is yet a necessary part of the NC. Hence, Sabbath keeping is not only required but is a sign of the Elect and a surety of salvation, etc.

    I think similar logic can be used to assert that the NC has not been entered into as of yet and we are necessarily under the OC terms. A complicating matter is that Armstrongists seem to reject analogy across the board. When Sandburg wrote, "The fog comes on little cat feet," the Armstrongist approach would be to believe that the fog really has little feet like a cat. They apparently will never understand that under the NC, Christ is out Sabbath and is our rest from sin. They will forever see it as sunset to sunset on the seventh day and worrying about if it is all right to go to a restaurant.

    I am continuing to read on this this topic. I am identifying some of my assumptions - always believed but never substantiated. So far, the NC is like the Trinity, the data points are all there, but absent an explicit statement, some will vacillate or even innovate. Paul likely thought it was unnecessary to say, "You are under the NC now, at this time." He could have left us a creed or two and a glossary. I am sure that he is surprised at all the trouble that assuming a level of understanding on the part of your epistle readers can invoke.

    Neo

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    1. Neo,
      I like this summary of the differences between the two covenants: https://www.learnreligions.com/old-vs-new-covenant-700361#:~:text=New%20Covenant%201%20A%20covenant%20is%20a%20binding,to%20a%20Messiah%20or%20Savior.%20More%20items...%20

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  4. Certainly, in saying that "the provisions of the New Covenant are not yet universal," I was referring to some of the foundational premises of that covenant. In other words, if salvation is God's plan to redeem mankind from the power of sin and death, and that this salvation is only available through Jesus Christ (and I think that most Christians accept these as foundational premises of the New Covenant), then it follows that only a portion of humankind has/is currently actively participating in that covenant. Also, like the Israelites living under the terms of the Old Covenant, Christians today cannot claim to have fully received all of the "better promises" which were made to us under the terms of the New Covenant (e.g., we have received the down payment on eternal life with Christ and the Father, but we are not currently enjoying the full benefit of that promise). Hope that clarifies what I had in mind when I made that statement.

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  5. Have you read the CGI booklet "The New Covenant - Does It Do Away With God's Law?"
    You don't think Jesus is expanding our understanding of the law in Matthew 5...after verse 19 he addresses laws (not just 10 Commandments) and gives us a greater understanding of what they were all about.  His fulfillment of the law is better understood as a filling up...part of the New Covenant is understanding the law in a greater degree than just the physical way...there is a spiritual element to the law.
    In Acts 15:19-21 you seem to be using the New Living Translation.  Better translations render verse 21 as, "For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is READ in the synagogues on every Sabbath."  The implication here is that Gentiles will get a fuller understanding of the law when they attend weekly synagogue services each Sabbath where the law is read each week.  James only mentions those 4 items (verses 19-20) for Gentiles to be warned about because those practices were very common among Gentiles.  Verse 21 uses the word READ to emphasize the written law of God which had to be read because it was in written form.  The oral law of the Pharisees was not written down until 200A.D.   The controversy of Acts 15 focused on circumcision.  The party of the Pharisees (Christians who believed in keeping oral and written law) thought that Gentiles should also be physically circumcised.  The early Church decided against it, but that does not mean the law of circumcision was done away.  Even in the Old Testament law (Deuteronomy 10:16; Deuteronomy 30:6) circumcision was of the heart.  The New Testament helps us understand the true intention of that law by the decision made in Acts 15 (see Romans 2:28-29).  The New Testament expands our understanding of the law it does not do away with it.  
    Have you read Ron Dart's book, "Law and Covenant?"  The best book I have read explaining a Church of God position on Covenants and Law and why we still keep the law of God despite being saved totally by God's grace.
    thanks

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    1. Mike,
      Thanks for the comment, No, I haven't read that booklet, and I don't see it listed among the church's literature. Do you have a link?
      As for Acts 15:19-21, I think that it is a stretch to suggest that this scripture implies that Gentiles need a fuller understanding of the law or to attend synagogue. Also, the context makes plain that much more than circumcision was at stake here. In verse 5, we read: "Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

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    2. Sir, the law of Moses means different things to different people. To the Pharisaical sect it meant the oral and written law. To the apostles it meant the written law. See what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Mark 7 as just one example. He also upbraided them on their additional laws regarding the Sabbath. We know from the gospel accounts the Pharisees and later the Pharisees who got into Christianity believed the oral traditions were equal to the written law. But Christ taught different. We now have the entire New Testament to look back on in context. The 1st Century Church did not have it. They were trying to figure this all out with Judaism and the Temple still in existence. We now can look back on all of this and read scriptures like Matthew 5 and see the law was not done away with. It was expanded and better explained. If you have not read Ron Dart's book please do so. It gets into all the nuance which I don't have time to address here. Even the sacrifices are not gone...they are embodied in Jesus Christ now. Please read Hebrews 10. Christ's sacrifice is ongoing for anyone who repents today, or tomorrow or next week. In other words the sacrifice of Christ is still moving forward in time as people commit to Jesus. So even the sacrificial part of the law is not done away. All the sacrifices were pointing to Christ and what He did.

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    3. Thanks again for your civility and willingness to engage on this topic. I think that Ronald Dart was probably the most coherent and intellectually honest apologist for Armstrong's theology that the movement has produced thus far. Even so, having spent the better part of the last fifty years associated with that movement, I don't think that it's unreasonable for me to claim intimate familiarity with the movement's teachings relative to the Law's relevance for Christians (my own father wrote and spoke extensively about CGI's perspective on this issue). From my perspective, the Armstrongist position on a Christian's obligation to adhere to the terms of the Old Covenant is full of incosistencies and is not sustainable against the weight of the Scriptural and historical evidence relative to the subject.
      First, the attempt to define the Law of Moses in different ways - to parse what is and isn't comprehended/included in that designation is what gets Armstrongists into trouble. For most folks (Pharisees included), the Law of Moses encompasses all of the material in what we now refer to as the Torah, Pentateuch, or first five books of the Old Testament (including laws, statutes, judgements, rituals, sacrifices, etc.). Moreover, everything in the Law of Moses was considered to be part of the terms of God's Covenant with Israel (what we now refer to as the Old Covenant). The sign or symbol of that covenant was male circumcision.
      Now, what Jesus was referring to in Mark 7:1-23 were all of the traditions which had arisen among the Jews relative to the Law of Moses. In addition to the Law of Moses, the Pharisees adhered to a number of traditions which had evolved over the years that the Jewish faith had been practiced on the earth. Indeed, the Pharisees and their allies had come to regard many of these practices with the same reverence which was formerly reserved for the Law of Moses. In this account, Christ chastised them for putting these traditions on an equal footing with the Law (which effectively made them superior to the law in some instances). He also criticized their physical attempts to prevent themselves from being defiled/made unclean/polluted. Hence, when Jesus and his followers discussed the Law of Moses, this passage makes clear that they were NOT talking about Jewish traditions!
      More to follow in the next comment...

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    4. You are also correct to point out that the only Scriptures that Christ and his First Century followers had access to were those that we now refer to as the Old Testament. Christ used those writings in his teachings and lived his life in compliance with the Law of Moses. Likewise, the early Church taught about Jesus and his teachings out of those same writings. Once again, as you say, it was all they had!
      Now, we come to another major point of departure. Armstrongists love to frame the argument in terms of the Law of Moses being done away with, but that isn't what I am claiming. I believe that Scripture clearly teaches that Christ fulfilled all of the provisions of the Law of Moses - that he satisfied all of the dos and don'ts of the Old Covenant. He did this on our behalf, because NO ONE had ever been able to do so before - and because the God ordained penalty not performing them was severe punishment or death (depending on the law or statute). Once again, he didn't abrogate/nullify/do away with the Law, he FULFILLED it!
      He also filled the Law to the full by underscoring the original spiritual intent and principles which underpinned the entire Law. Likewise, Christ distilled the law into its essential nature: LOVE, and he summarized the Torah into two great principles: Love for God and love for neighbor.
      Christ also fulfilled the Law and the Prophets in the sense that they all anticipated or pointed to him! The Sabbath, the Holy Days, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the rituals, the restoration of the Kingdom of David - ALL found their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
      Finally, by offering himself as a sacrifice for sins and paying the death penalty which our sins had incurred, Jesus Christ made it possible for us to be reconciled to God - no longer alienated/separated from our God. And then by ascending into heaven and serving as our advocate with the Father and sending us the Holy Spirit to assist us in our own walk, he made possible for us to fulfill the law of love in our own lives. Not all of the dos and don'ts of the Old Covenant, but the transformed Law that could now be written in our hearts and minds. And, finally, as with God's original intent, that salvation which Christ had made possible was now available to all of humankind - not just the Israelites!

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    5. As I finish, another point comes to mind. If the Jerusalem Council and the writings of the early Church "fathers" is not enough to demonstrate the incoherence of the Armstrongist position on the Christian's obligation to the Law of Moses, why do you think that God allowed Jerusalem and the Temple to be destroyed by the Romans? Do you think that those events were mere coincidence? Don't you think it's strange that those events made it physically impossible to continue the Levitical priesthood, the rituals associated with that, the sacrificial system outlined in the Torah, the temple tithing system, festival observance relative to the Law of the Central Sanctuary, etc. Is it possible that God was intentionally making the Old Covenant irrelevant going forward by making it impossible thereafter to adhere to all of the laws, statutes, etc. contained in the Torah? Was he underscoring the point that Christ's life, death, and resurrection had rendered all of that unnecessary?

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  6. My view on the policy developed by the Jerusalem Council:

    Herman Hoeh wrote the following about the four points that came out of the Jerusalem Council:

    1. "These four points were originally part of the civil law of Moses."
    2. "They were also included later with the added ceremonies to regulate the typical sacrifices."

    Hoeh asserts that the Jerusalem Council was only about the added ritualistic laws - not the Mosaic Law. (I would contend that the sacrifices are a part of the Mosaic Law.) And the civil laws of Moses continued to be in force after the Jerusalem Council and are a part of the New Covenant legislation. We must, then, ask ourselves why these laws, if the occurred in two places in the Torah, were repeated as the conclusion of the Jerusalem Council deliberations. If the civil laws of Moses were still in force and these laws were included in those civil laws, there is no need to pick them out and repeat them. All the council had to do is say, "Follow the Mosaic Law and you'll be fine." The clear context is that the four points were all that the Gentiles had to observe (in addition to the broader scope of the Sermon on the Mount) from the Old Testament legislation.

    James observes that ". . . Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every Sabbath in the synagogues.” The Council had to make legislation not only for the Gentiles but also the Jewish Christians. The Jewish Christians wanted to see traditions and customs continue, even though they did not have the same force and relevance under the NT. They were not a pathway to salvation but they were a good ethical code. What James is saying is that even though there is no need for the Gentiles to keep the Mosaic traditions, Jewish Christians may continue to access these traditions for there is an active reservoir of Judaic culture in the synagogues. There will be no curtailment or loss of the Judaic culture by the Council's decision for Gentiles.

    Had the Council meant to support the perpetuation of the Law of Moses through this statement, then the Apostle Paul in his evangelism was a heretic. And, further, Armstrongists would be totally out of compliance because they follow only select laws from the total civil Mosaic legislation which Hoeh says is still in force. Paul says those laws are a package. There is no halfway.

    One of the arguments that Hoeh uses is that the 10 commandments are still in force. (Sidebar: This is true because the Decalogue was verified in the NT with the single exception that commandment four was transformed, much like circumcision was transformed.) But Hoeh goes further and says that all the laws derived from the 10 commandments are still in force, that is, the laws, statutes, ordinances, judgments and whatever else that form the Mosaic civil law. Only the rituals and sacrifices have been blown away. But the weakness in this argument is that the rituals and sacrifices, too, are derived from the 10 commandments. They are the liturgical implementation of commandment one from the Decalogue.

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