Friday Round Up

(1) ‘180’ is a wake up call to all Christians in America: Its become something of a vastly overused and worn out cliche to say that something is “life changing”, but if there ever was a movie made which could lay claim to such a term, surely this is it.

Its now been seen by more than 300,000 people just on youtube since it was released this week. Lets spread the word far and wide about this powerful movie and get it into the hands of as many people as we can. May God bless and strengthen Ray Comfort and all involved in this amazing project.

For more information or to order “180” on DVD, please go to this link.

Here’s one person’s outreach. He says, “Giving away 180 is easy, all you need are some DVDs and a servant’s heart.”

(2) This coming Tuesday (October 4) from 1:00pm to 3:30pm MST (appx), Dr. James White will conduct an online course in Christology for Christians: A Study of the History and Theology of the Person of Christ. James writes:

On Tuesday beginning at 1pm MST we will have the equivalent of a seminary level class on Christology on The Dividing Line. Christology should be a fundamental area of study of any serious believer, yet it is often an area of profound ignorance amongst many who name the name of Christ. We would like to help our listeners to have a much better grasp of this vital area. So, we will do at least two full hours of lecture on this topic, with a brief break halfway through the lecture.

To prepare for this, James has suggested some online reading material. Full details here.

(3) Once again, Ligonier has some SUPER deals today in this week’s $5 Friday sale. The online sale starts at 8 a.m. EST and goes on for 24 hours or until items are sold out. Check out the $5 Ligonier sale here.

(4) Dane Ortlund has come up with an innovative literary device, writing about an imaginary interview he would have with Jonathan Edwards, basing the answers on Edwards’ own writings and sermons:

A few questions on the Christian life. (I requested one to two word answers only).

Jon, what ignites the Christian life? How does it all get started?

JE: New birth.

Having begun, what then is the essence of the Christian life? What’s the heart and soul of Christian living? What is most definitive of it?

JE: Love.

What is the fuel for the Christian life? How do we keep loving? What’s the non-negotiable of all non-negotiables that will keep us going?

JE: Joy.

Where do I go to get this joy? How can I find it? What, concretely, sustains it, through all the ups and downs of life?

JE: The Bible.

But as I go to the Bible, what do I do with it as I read? How do I own it, make it mine, turn it into this joy-fueled love?

JE: Prayer.

What then is the overall flavor of the Christian life? How would you describe the aroma, the feel, of following Christ?

JE: Pilgrimage.

If joy, Bible, prayer, and all the rest go in, all under the flavor of pilgrimage, what comes out? What is the result of Christian life?

JE: Obedience.

Broadening out our scope, then, how do we make sense of the all this in a macro way? What is the context for the Christian life?

JE: Redemptive history.

What then, finally, does all this funnel into? What, above all else, is the hope of the Christian life?

JE: Heaven.

(5) An important quote to add to last week’s article concerning justification in the early Church Fathers (by Nathan Busenitz):

Chrysostom (349-407): What does he mean when he says: “I have declared your justice?” He did not simply say: “I have given,” but “I have declared.” What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest independently of the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering.

Greek text: ?? ???? ?????, ????????????? ???????????? ??? ????? ?????, ?????, ???’, ?????????????. ?? ??????? ??? ??? ??? ????????????, ???? ?????, ???? ???????, ???? ??? ??????? ????? ?? ????? ????????? ?? ????????. ???? ??? ??? ? ?????? ????? ?????? ???? ?? ????? ????? ?????????? ???? ???????????? ?????????? ?? ???? ??? ??????? ????? ???????, ?? ??? ??????? ????? ??? ?????.

Adversus Judaeos, VII, §3, PG 48:919; translation in Fathers of the Church, Vol. 68, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, Disc. 7.3.2 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1979), pp. 186-187.

Sola Scriptura – By the Scriptures Alone (3)

Continued from if we look at the word “authority,” the first six letters spell the word “author.”

Christians believe the Bible to be the Vox Dei (the voice of God), or the Verbum Dei (the word of God). Yet the Bible did not come down out of heaven on a parachute, and we do not believe that the Bible was actually penned by God. The actual writing was done by human beings. However, the Bible is God’s message.

GOD’S GOSPEL

Romans 1:1 – “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the Gospel of God.”

In the phrase “the Gospel of God,” the word “of” usually means “about,” but in this particular case, the original construction of the language (Greek) does not allow for that understanding. The “of” here is possessive. It does not refer to the Gospel about God, but rather it is talking of the Gospel belonging to God, or “God’s Gospel.” Paul declared that he was set apart to announce God’s Good News, or announce God’s announcement. God is the Source of the announcement – it is God’s Gospel.

CONSIDER THE SOURCE

In Luke 1:11-25, the angel Gabriel announces to Zacharias that his wife Elizabeth is to have a son (who we will come to know as John the Baptist). Zacharias protests that his wife is too old and that he also is an old man. Note Gabriel’s response in verse 19, “I am Gabriel. I come from the Presence of God.”

He was saying in unmistakable terms: Zacharias, consider the Source of this announcement. I am Gabriel, and I’ve just come from the immediate Presence of the Lord. The message therefore comes with the highest possible authority, so don’t think you are too old! My announcement destroys all human limitations.

Zacharias probably said something like, “Oh!” and if you remember the rest of that story, that’s about all he would say for the next nine months!

But let’s not fail to notice the point being made here – the claim Scripture makes for itself is that it is the very word of God Almighty.

But simply making a claim doesn’t make it so. Anyone can claim to be speaking for God. But what would happen to our confidence in a claim such as this, if someone claimed to be speaking with the authority of God but we were able to find obvious mistakes, discrepancies and errors? What would happen to our confidence in his claim to be speaking with the authority of God?

I think we all know the answer. We would begin to question the fact that he is speaking for God.

Why? Because although we expect human beings to make mistakes; we don’t expect God to make mistakes. If the Bible claims to be the Word of God and it is not the word of God, it could still be generally true, but the claim would be exposed as a fraud.

I certainly would not devote my life to worshipping and serving a man, about whom all I know comes from a source that has proven to be fraudulent. I’d have to commit intellectual suicide to do that!

The point then is that when a claim is made that something is the word of God, the stakes are very high. Either it demands our complete attention and obedience or else it is a fraud and would not even be considered a “good book” to read.
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It is well with my soul

Horatio Spafford was a lawyer of some prominence in Chicago. He and his wife Anna had one son and four daughters, and were good friends of D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey for many years. Mr. Spafford’s children had come to Christ through the influence of Ira Sankey’s music and efforts with the children of Chicago. Shortly before the Great Chicago Fire of October 8th, 1871, the Spafford’s son died and the family went into deep mourning.

After the fire ravaged the city, Mr. Spafford found himself financially ruined. He had invested heavily in downtown Chicago real estate, which was now gone. He and his wife turned to the people of the city, helping to minister to those who were homeless and in desperate need.

After two years of ministering to the people of Chicago, Mr. Spafford thought his family needed a vacation. D. L. Moody and Ira Sankey were in England holding evangelical meetings and bringing countless people to Christ. Mr. Spafford decided to take his family to England, where they could vacation and also be a help to his friends Moody and Sankey.

Mr. Spafford booked passage for his family on the ship SS Ville de Havre, but at the last minute was unable to go with his family due to business. He promised to follow them within a few weeks and they would all be reunited in England.
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Dealing with Disappointment

“During the period when lotteries were unhappily allowed to flourish in this country, a gentleman, looking into the window of a lottery office in St. Paul’s Churchyard, discovered to his joy that his ticket had turned up a 10,000 pound prize. Intoxicated with this sudden accession of wealth, he walked round the churchyard, to consider calmly how he should dispose of his fortune. On again, in his circuit, passing the lottery office, he resolved to take another glance at the charming announcement in the window, when, to his dismay, he saw that a new number had been substituted. On inquiry, he found that a wrong number had at first been posted by mistake, and that after all he was not the holder of the prize. His chagrin was now as great as his previous pleasure had been.” — W. Haig Miller’s “Life’s Pleasure Garden”

When you and I experience a disappointment far more grievious than the failure to win the lottery, what is our anchor? When the sea billows roll, what keeps us from drifting far from the safe refuge of His presence?

The answer is found in what we choose to think about. What we choose to believe.

The Psalmist David wrote, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:13, 14)

Hebrews 6:19 tells us that hope is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” It is a certain expectation of future blessing and favor.

When you have lost something precious, perhaps even someone precious, even the most precious relationship you have ever had in this world, just remember, the same Sovereign One who has ordered your events in time is the all wise and Omniscient One too.

As much as a finite mind ever could ever be given access to even a measure of His thoughts and to know what He knows about you and the situation that greatly troubles your heart – if you could look beyond your present disappointment and see things as He does, you would have ordained the events of your life just as He did – you would have chosen what He has chosen for you. This indeed is the supreme comfort of the saints in their trials. God in His providence has ordered all the events of time and though the One who gave might have chosen to taken away, we should always say, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

He is worthy of our trust, even as the tears roll down our faces. He is altogether good. He is altogether gracious. He is Love Himself. He is the Faithful One, steadfast and true.

When the answer to our prayers is simply God telling us “NO,” what we know about God should provoke our trust in Him, even when the only thing our frail and limited understanding would conclude is that the answer should have been “yes.” Our mind screams out, “God if You only knew what I know, You would have chosen something different.” Yet the moment we even voice such a thought, we realise that this thought must be recognized as the most futile and fallacious thoughts imaginable. God knows all we know and a billion more things besides, and He has taken all things into consideration when He ordained all the events your life will ever encounter.

There is no testimony without a test. There is no need for trust when all is understood. Trust in the dark what He revealed to you in the light.

Trust in the Lord, wait patiently for Him. The Lord has His plan for you, precious child of God, and all His plans for you are good.

We may lose our gold, but we can never lose our God. The expectation of the righteous is from the Lord, and nothing that comes from him shall ever fail.

C. H. Spurgeon once recalled, “I knew one who had made an idol of his daughter, and when she sickened and died, he was exceedingly rebellious, and the result was that he died himself. Expectations which hang upon the frail tenure of a human life may fill our cup with wormwood if we indulge them. Could this father have owned the Lord’s hand in the removal of his child, and had he beforehand moderated his expectations concerning her, he might have lived happily with the rest of his family, and have been an example of holy patience.”

What is your idol? What vain thing do you allow to come before yourself and your God? Is it a certain job? A certain place to live? Is it wealth? Health? A relationship? Companionship? Is the idol a “who” rather than a ‘what”?

L. B. Brown once wrote, “Who has not muttered “Marah” over some well in the desert which he strained himself to reach, and found to be bitterness? Have you found no salt waters where you thought to find sweetness and joy? Love, beauty, the world’s bright throngs, marriage, home, the things which once wooed you, and promised to slake the thirst of your soul for happiness, are they all Elims, sweet springs and palms? Oh, what fierce murmurings of “Marah” have I heard from hearts wrung with anguish, from souls withered and blasted by a too fond confidence in anything or any being but God! Believe it, no man, with a man’s heart in him, gets far on his wilderness way without some bitter soul-searching disappointment; happy is he who is brave enough to push on to another stage of the journey, and rest in Elim, where there are twelve springs, living springs of water, and threescore and ten palm trees.”

… disappointments in time are often the means of preventing disappointments in eternity. — William Jay

Rise up O precious one. Yes, rise up from what you think are the ashes of your dreams. Remember Christ. Fix your thoughts on Him. He has never let you down. He has never left you nor will He ever do so. Remember His true and certain love for you. Let all the vain things that have charmed you most, now be surrendered to His Providential hand. Yes, rise up even now and sing with me:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

John Stott Quotes on the Cross

For the past several weeks, Tim Challies has been encouraging visitors to his blog to read “the Cross of Christ” by Dr. John Stott. Its a truly marvellous book.

This week, chapter 8 of the book is in view and the quotes Tim picks out for further consideration are well worth reading several times.

Truly, when Christ died and was raised from death, a new day dawned, a new age began. This new day is “the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2), and the blessings of “such a great salvation” (Heb 2:3) are so richly diverse that they cannot be neatly defined. Several pictures are needed to portray them. Just as the church of Christ is presented in Scripture as his bride and his body, the sheep of God’s flock and the branches of his vine, his new humanity, his household or family, the temple of the Holy Spirit and the pillar and buttress of the truth, so the salvation of Christ is illustrated by the vivid imagery of terms like propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation, which form the theme of this chapter.

Those four terms form the theme and the structure, allowing Stott to progressively reveal the salvation accomplished at the cross.

“They are not alternative explanations of the cross, providing us with a range to choose from, but complementary to one another, each contributing a vital part to the whole. As for the imagery, propitiation introduces us to rituals at a shrine, redemption to transactions in a marketplace, justification to proceedings in a court of law, and reconciliation to experiences in a home or family.” Substitution is not a theory of the atonement but the foundation of all of these words and concepts.

And so Stott turns to each of them. Let me share just three great quotes.

The reason why a propitiation is necessary is that sin arouses the wrath of God. This does not mean (as animists fear) that he is likely to fly off the handle at the most trivial provocation, still less that he loses his temper for no apparent reason at all. For there is nothing capricious or arbitrary about the holy God. Nor is he ever irascible, malicious, spiteful or vindictive. His anger is neither mysterious nor irrational. It is never unpredictable, but always predictable, because it is provoked by evil and evil alone. The wrath of God … is his steady, unrelenting, unremitting, uncompromising antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations. In short, God’s anger is poles apart from ours. What provokes our anger (injured vanity) never provokes his; what provokes his anger (evil) seldom provokes ours.

Tim writes: That last sentence gives us all an “ouch” moment, I think. Here is another good quote:

Our body has not only been created by God and will one day be resurrected by him, but it has been bought by Christ’s blood and is indwelled by his Spirit. Thus it belongs to God three times over, by creation, redemption and indwelling. How then, since it does not belong to us, can we misuse it? Instead, we are to honor God with it, by obedience and self-control. Bought by Christ, we have no business to become the slaves of anybody or anything else. Once we were slaves of sin; now we are the slaves of Christ, and his service is the true freedom.

In conclusion, at the end of the chapter, he says this:

Substitution is not a “theory of the atonement.” Nor is it even an additional image to takes its place as an option alongside the others. It is rather the essence of each image and the heart of the atonement itself. None of the four images could stand without it. I am not of course saying that it is necessary to understand, let alone articulate, a substitutionary atonement before one can be saved. Yet the responsibility of Christian teachers, preachers and other witnesses is to seek grace to expound it with clarity and conviction. For the better people understand the glory of the divine substitution, the easier it will be for them to trust in the Substitute.

Modalism, Oneness and T. D. Jakes

Nathan Busenitz has written found in Oneness Pentecostal circles, as well as the on-going confusion as to where T. D. Jakes stands on the issue.

A second article by Mark Driscoll is also illuminating.

Church Discipline

Dr. David Murray, president of HeadHeartHand, is the Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Shona, and four children.

Church discipline is an often englected subject in the life of the Church. Historically, that was not the case. The Reformers noted three marks of a true Church: (1) the preaching of the Gospel; (2) a right administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper); and (3) the use of Church disipline.

There are good reasons for the people of God to be made aware of what Church discipline actually is, how it is to function in the life of the local Church, and how it can be very useful to them personally to make the experience of life in the community of God a safe place for them.

I found the following two articles by Dr. Murray to be both wise and practical. I will put the two articles together in the one place here.

(1) PREPARE FOR CHURCH DISCIPLINE

Prevention is better than cure, especially in the sphere of church discipline. As discipline cases can very easily consume a pastor’s time and energy, and even consume the pastor and his congregation, the prevention of church discipline should be a high pastoral priority.

And how do we do that?

We do it, first, by preaching, by regularly setting forth clear standards of Christian confession, character, and conduct in our regular preaching ministry. Our flock needs to know where the fences are, where the no-go areas are, and what to expect if they cross them.

Second, we prevent church discipline by pastoral visitation. We need to keep in close and regular contact with the sheep to gauge where they are in their walk with God. In those one-to-one situations we may detect small changes in belief, attitude, spirit or character that can be addressed before they become big and irreversible problems.

However, no matter how well we preach and pastor, no matter how much we try to prevent it, church discipline problems are going to arise. It’s therefore best to prepare the congregation, and especially the officebearers, before it arises.

Early in a pastor’s ministry (not the first sermon, of course, but certainly within a few months) he should preach a sermon on church discipline, before he has to deal with any cases. That keeps the subject objective and avoids personalizing it. Points to make may include:

The necessity of church discipline
One Church order book puts it like this: “Any institution or society which is to function effectively must be well-ordered: it must have recognised means of correcting aberrations which threaten its integrity. This is true pre-eminently of the Church of Jesus Christ, whose witness in the world depends so intimately on the godly behavior of its members.”

The warrant for church discipline
This is not something thought up by legalistic control-freaks. Rather, it has divine warrant (Matthew 18:15-19). So important did the Reformers see church discipline that they included it as one of the marks of the church along with preaching and the sacraments.

The benefits of good church discipline
Listen to this comprehensive list of benefits from a Scottish book of Church order: “Church discipline and censures are of great use and necessity in the Church, that the name of God, by reason of ungodly and wicked persons living in the Church, be not blasphemed, nor his wrath provoked against his people; that the godly be not leavened with but preserved from the contagion, and stricken with fear; and that sinners who are to be censured may be ashamed, to the destruction of the flesh and saving of the spirit in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

The procedure for church discipline
The roolz! Don’t we just love ‘em!! Well, whether we love them or not we’d better get to know them, and get to know them fast. I know it is far more edifying and enjoyable to read the latest books from Reformation Heritage Books, but knowing the intricacies of the church’s discipline procedures could save a pastor’s ministry, and even save a soul.

As so many of the problems associated with church discipline arise from a lack of procedure, a failure to follow it, or an abuse of it, we must familiarize ourselves with the principles and the practice. If your church does not have any formal procedures, then find one that does, get their protocols, and copy or adapt their methods. Train the elders in this and also communicate to the congregation what they can expect, so that they are not taken by surprise or think that they are being unfairly treated.

Whatever we do, we must not abuse, shortcut or override the stated procedures, however tempted we are to do so. When some people are accused of sins, they train their sights on the procedures rather than their sin, and can easily turn the focus away from themselves, away from what they have done, and to what we have done or not done in the process.
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Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures

Dan Phillips is known for his writing on the Pyromaniacs blog and has served as a teacher, pastor, seminar speaker, newspaper columnist and radio talk show host. I have often enjoyed his fresh insights into the Scriptures, the fruit of his firm grasp of the original languages.

Just recently, he taught two sessions at the 2011 Ashford Bible Conference in my homeland of England. His theme was “Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures.”

I am sure that if you enjoy rich and in depth Bible teaching, you will be very much blessed by watching the two videos below.

Dan writes about his approach to this venture saying:
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Sola Scriptura – By the Scriptures Alone (2)

Continued from Part 1 “is God’s authority invested in a book or in an Institution (the Church)?”

The Protestant Reformers believed in Sola Scriptura (the Scriptures Alone), and would declare the Roman Church to believe and practice Sola Ecclesia (by the Church Alone), for quite simply, what the Roman Catholic Church says to be true, is true because the Church speaks with infallibility and cannot possibly be wrong.

The response of the Roman Catholic Church was to remind the Reformers that the Church would not even have had the Bible except that Church councils actually defined what the Bible actually was. The reasoning went like this: if the Church is the Institution that declares the Bible to be the Bible, does not that indicate that the Church would have at least the same authority as the Bible, or even more?

RECIPIMUS

Both Martin Luther and John Calvin responded to this by reminding Rome that the key word the Church used, when it did define the Bible, was the Latin word “Recipimus,” which means “we receive.” The Church declared “we receive these books as sacred Scripture.”
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“Why Can’t I Own Canadians?” Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

by Dr. Michael Horton at Dr. Laura Schlesinger, an Orthodox Jew, said that homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, which was posted on the Internet. It creates a great opportunity to talk about how we interpret the Bible (especially the Old Testament). We need to have good answers—better than Dr. Laura would have—to the frequent criticism that if we’re going to follow Leviticus on one thing (like the vileness of homosexuality), we have to take the rest (such as stoning homosexuals and rebellious children—not to mention, the ban on pork, etc., and holy war in defense of a holy nation).

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination …. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness – Lev15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,
James M Kauffman, Ed.D.
Professor Emeritus, Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia
(It would be a damn shame if we couldn’t own a Canadian)

Although the responses aren’t usually this clever, the “Do you really want to go to Leviticus?” argument packs a punch in contemporary debates. Often, the critic assumes that every biblical command is a timeless and universal law. They really can’t bear the blame by themselves for this misunderstanding, since it’s common to a lot of Christian preaching through the ages. Medieval popes invoked these “holy war” passages for the crusades and appealed to Leviticus for prohibiting the charging of interest on loans to Christians.

In fact, John Calvin took aim at medieval canon law on just these very points, explaining that while the moral law is indeed universally binding for all time and places, the civil and ceremonial laws attached to it in the Old Testament covenant code were given uniquely to the only nation that has ever been chosen and separated as holy to the Lord. Anticipated by John the Baptist’s fiery announcement of a judgment in God’s house, Jesus pronounced his covenant curses on the religious leaders and in word and deed replaced the Temple. The only holy land after Jesus’ resurrection is his body, those who are united to him through faith, “from every tribe, kindred, tongue, people, and nation” (Rev 5:9). Already in Hebrews 8:13, the old covenant could be called “obsolete.”

The commands in the old covenant law (viz., Leviticus and Deuteronomy) are specific to that remarkable geo-political theocracy that foreshadowed the universal kingdom of Christ. The deliverance of Israel in the exodus anticipates a far greater exodus through the waters of death and hell in Christ. The holy wars pale in comparison with the judgment of the nations that Christ will execute at the end of the age. Even if Israel had been faithful to this covenant, Canaan would have only been a type or small-scale model of the extensiveness and intensiveness of God’s reign at the end of the age. Moses could not give God’s people rest in the land of everlasting Sabbath. As the prophets proclaim, this would only come when one greater than Moses would rescue his people and lead them victoriously into the perfect peace, love, and joy that he would win for his co-heirs.

Sure, we learn from Leviticus 18:22 that God considers homosexuality an abomination. Yet our critics (at least the clever ones) will point out that the same code threatens excommunication for eating any meat with blood in it (Lev 17:10) and eating animals that chew the cud or part the hoof (like pigs) is strictly forbidden as “unclean” (Lev 11). The responder above points to many other examples.

Few of these commands can be explained in terms of general wisdom for hygiene, sanitation, and gastronomic health. They focus attention on God’s act of separating Israel (“clean”) from the unclean nations. Each set of prohibitions is a facet in the diamond of an old covenant system that sparkled with anticipation of the coming Messiah. It takes a good knowledge of the covenantal context and import of these commands for Israel to recognize their unique significance in this history of redemption. It also requires that we interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament, allowing the fulfillment to guide our understanding of the typological promise.

A good place to start in digging deeper is M. G. Kline’s Kingdom Prologue, especially where he talks about “Intrusion Ethics”: that is, the suspension of ordinary providence in favor of miracle, ordinary wisdom in favor of God’s direct word through the prophets, just war among common nations in favor of holy war on behalf of God’s holy land and nation. Homosexuality is still a violation of God’s moral law for all times and places, but the sanction for it under the old covenant (death by stoning) was theocracy-specific.

Living in an era that foreshadowed the last judgment, the Psalmist properly offered imprecatory prayers calling for God’s judgment on the ungodly. Nevertheless, in Jesus’ ministry this identification of heaven with a geo-political nation was declared no longer in effect. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus quotes some of these passages in Leviticus and Deuteronomy: “You have heard it said, ‘…..’ But I say,….” These old covenant commands were not wrong; they had their place in the theocratic government that God exercised directly over his people. However, Jesus rebukes James and John when they seek to call fire down on the Samaritan village that rejected the gospel. I offer a summary of this argument in The Christian Faith (chapter 29).

In the moral law that runs not only through the whole Bible but throughout the codes of so many civilizations across the ages, God reveals his righteous character. In the specific legislation that God attaches to this moral law for Israel alone, however, God’s moral will is in service to his saving will in Jesus Christ. These Israel-specific laws are not intended to regulate the constitutions of common nations, but ultimately to play their part in a theocratic system that leads us ultimately to Christ and his everlasting kingdom. So you can’t invoke the old covenant passages for common nations in this era in which Christ’s kingdom is not identified with any geo-political nation. It’s an era of forgiveness, a stay of execution before the dreadful day of judgment. In this in-between time, the kingdom of Christ (regardless of what the secular kingdoms of this age determine) announces God’s righteous judgment and gracious salvation. It calls all people everywhere—gay, straight, gossips, and the pious grandmother who trusts in her own righteousness—to repent and embrace God’s only Son.