LOOKING TO PRAISE AND WORSHIP JESUS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. 18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Law and Disorder

Seeing the term “antinomian” mentioned a few posts back in the comments section led me diving into on-line search engines.
Anti = against (Greek)
Nomos = Law (Greek)
I learned that, basically, antinomianism is lawlessness - the opposite of legalism.
Interestingly, as of late I have heard more than a few Christian friends proclaiming with great glee their “freedom in Christ." Two of these friends recently agreed to end their marriage. I fear that “free in Christ” is coming to mean whatever suits the flesh.
As I was reading but a speck of the history of antinomianism on-line, it got me to wondering - Why aren’t the Gentiles to keep the Law as per the Jews’ adherence?
I have messianic Jewish friends who, although they outwardly keep (some of) the Law, they do so not for sanctification, but for the sake of being a closer witness to their Jewish family and friends. In their case, it makes sense to me. They would alienate their families and friends by proclaiming “freedom” from the Law, yet they share common ground with their unsaved brethren in their respect of the Law and keeping some traditions.
As I see it, the Law truly served to point to Christ. He is the goal – not the end – of the Law. I thought it to be aptly put on wikipedia as follows:
“Romans 10:4 is also sometimes cited: “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” [NIV] The key word here is ‘telos,’ see also Strong's G5056. Robert Badenas in Christ the End of the Law, Romans 10.4 in Pauline Perspective, 1985, ISBN 0905774930, argues that ‘telos’ is correctly translated as ‘goal,’ not ‘end,’ so that Christ is the goal of the Law.”
(Interestingly, studies with my aforementioned messianic Jewish friends led me to learn that the word ‘Torah’ in Hebrew is similarly translated. ‘Torah’ – which refers to Moses’ first five books of the Bible – literally means ‘target’ or ‘aim.’)
Is this why the Gentiles are not obliged to “keep” the Law – because its aim is Christ? Of course, we keep some Laws (10 commandments and others), but not all. I’ve heard the Laws distinguished between ceremonial, civil, and moral, of course, but I’m not sure that these distinctions neatly describe why we keep some and not others.
I suppose that messianic Jews are not required to “keep” the Law for the same reasons that Gentiles are not required, but I wonder if it’s not a bad thing if messianic Jews observe the Law (if only partially) anyway. Of course, we’re united in Christ, but the wikipedia article on antinomianism has me wondering about distinctions.
“The Catholic Encyclopedia: Judaizers notes: "Paul, on the other hand, not only did not object to the observance of the Mosaic Law, as long as it did not interfere with the liberty of the Gentiles, but he conformed to its prescriptions when occasion required (1 Corinthians 9:20). Thus he shortly after [the Council of Jerusalem] circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:1-3), and he was in the very act of observing the Mosaic ritual when he was arrested at Jerusalem (21:26 sqq.).”
Why the distinction: “as long as it did not interfere with the liberty of the Gentiles…”?
Not that Paul is our example as is Christ, but I find this passage interesting when contemplating distinctions among peoples – such as Jews and Gentiles.
I guess what I’m trying (albeit poorly and with half a brain) to say is that I’m not yet sure that the Law is so tidily wrapped up with Gentile dismissal saying “Christ set us free from all that.” I really wonder if there’s more of a place for it in our lives and is due greater consideration - well, greater than I’ve given it.
I think I’m just very frustrated by hearing “freedom in Christ” bandied about for fleshly justification of desires, and I’m bucking all of that to think with greater intention exactly what said “freedom” means in light of the Law – or what the “Law” means in light of freedom. Christ said He didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it, so I wonder about the place of the Law in all of our lives.

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Blogger mark pierson said...

Susan, great post.

If we look at 1 Cor.9:21 and Gal.6:2 we see mention of a "law to Christ" and "law of Christ". I believe that Christ has given His people a way, if you will, that He wants us to live. I believe that Whatever came from the lips of our Lord, or through the writings of the apostles and their associates (The whole New Testament) is binding to the Christian as the "Law of Christ".

It is also observed that all but one of the Ten Commandments is repeated in the New Testament. The one missing is the Sabbath Commandment (#4) because Christ is our Sabbath. The rest are still binding on the Christian.

In short: All that Jesus has handed down to us, either directly or through the apostles is the "Law of Christ" and is binding.

May 22, 2007 9:56 AM

Blogger mark pierson said...

When I say "directly" I mean as reported through the Gospels.

May 22, 2007 9:59 AM

Blogger Susan said...

Thank you.
1 Cor 9:21 - "To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law."
I don't know if I fully understand Paul's words here. He still sees himself as not being outside the law of God.
In some ways I see Christ as making more clear the true meaning (spirit) of the Law - that is, not only are we not to murder, but we are not to hate in our hearts (which leads some to murder). But this does not abrogate the first law not to murder. Yet there are many more laws (613 total) than this.
Gal 6:2 - "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
Of course, the "law of Christ" isn't fulfilled solely by bearing one another's burdens. I do think that by, as Christ said, loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength first - we can then love our neighbor as ourselves - and thusly fulfill the greatest commandments, as Jesus said.
But this is impossible with man and only possible with God's provision of such love.
Still thinking...
I do wonder after reading about antinomianism if the Law would not yet be binding on Jews but not Gentiles - all except for what involved the now non-existent physical building Temple, that is.

May 22, 2007 10:49 AM

Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Oh Susan! I am so sorry about posting over you! Let me see if I can take this post off... When I looked at the blog just a few minutes ago your post hadn't shown up yet on my computer. I bow and repent in dust and ashes!


May 22, 2007 10:50 AM

Blogger mark pierson said...

Susan, we see in Romans 2:15 the conscience of man has some sense of the law of God. I believe that the Old Testament contains an over-arching law, experienced by Gentiles in their conscience and is binding to those "without law". That same law is transmitted through Christ as He hands it down to His saints today. What comes to us through Christ and His writers of the New Testament is binding.

May 22, 2007 11:13 AM

Blogger mark pierson said...

That does not mean that we ignore those laws that appear in the OT that are not addressed in the NT. We must be carefull also not to take those laws for Israel and apply them to the church (the Sabbath comes to mind as well as dietary laws).

Most importantly, Christ has the way that He wants us to live and to serve Him. No Christian is w/o law.

May 22, 2007 11:21 AM

Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Question: Do we have to keep the law in order to be saved?

Question: What is the law of Christ?

Question: If Christ is our Sabbath, then is he not also the fulfillment of all the other laws as well?

There is a great deal of discussion about the place of the law in Christianity. Some press freedom to the point of saying that one can be a Christian without being obedient to Christ or without recognizing Christ as Lord or without producing fruit (antinomianism). Others get caught up in the law and the get all entangled because of their systematic theology.

I humbly and carefully answer the above questions:

Answer: The OT law plays no part in salvation. I.e. No amount of effort at keeping the law will contribute one iota to salvation. Salvation is all of grace through faith alone.

Answer: The law of Christ is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40

Answer: Yes, Christ is the fulfillment of all the law for us.

So what is the role of the law? Lest I be labelled antinomian myself, I see it has at least two functions of the law for Christians: 1) It reveals the character, holiness, attributes, and authority of God. 2) It reveals the wickedness and fallen state of men and thus the need for a Savior.

The NT debate about the law and the Gentiles was about this question: Did the Gentiles have to convert to Judaism before they could become Christians? Paul's answer is "No." God was doing the same work among the Gentiles without the use of the law as he was doing among the Jews.

Paul was also very careful about putting stumbling blocks in front of Gentiles or Jews. When he was with the Gentiles he was a Gentile; when he was with law keepers, he kept the law. He was free of the law but he was willing to submit his freedom so that some might be saved.

Bearing one another's burdens does fulfill the law of Christ in that it is loving one's neighbor. So does taking sandwiches to the poor. So does visiting those in prison. So does joining with believers to worship. None of these completely fulfills the law of Christ and all of the combined do not fulfill the law of Christ because the law of Christ is love, ongoing love, and it is never fulfilled.

The law, even in the OT, was a means of grace. The ritual keeping of the law never accomplished anything. The condition of one's heart, one's faith, determined if the law was being kept or not. The righteous shall live by faith, not by the law. So what good would keeping the law be for Jewish people today? Christ is the completion of the law, the ultimate means of grace. No amount of faithless law keeping will benefit them at all. When they come to faith they will obey the law of Christ.

I don't think I qualify as an antinomian. I testify that the law is good because it showed me my need for a righteousness that is from God by faith alone.

Dave Moorhead

May 22, 2007 11:47 AM

Blogger Susan said...

Simple minds think alike, n'est-ce pas?
I did the exact same thing to Mark yesterday! I had to remove my post, and I waited 24 hours and posted this today.
Thank you.
ps - I look forward to your posting over at ShilohGuy (and/or here) re: the emergent church (as per comments section over at Jazzy's).

May 22, 2007 12:20 PM

Blogger Susan said...

1. I'm not sure if the premise of your first question is correct. That is, was the OT Law ever established to provide "salvation"? Was it stated in the OT that one would be saved or receive salvation by keeping all of it?
2. You wrote: "without producing fruit (antinomianism)" The understanding I received from my reading was not that antinomianism referred to lack of fruit in one's life. (This could be a whole nudder post: I've heard individuals whom I respect speak of not seeing fruit in so-and-so's life - and that troubles me. Why are we seeking fruit in the lives of others, as if perhaps imply lack of salvation?)
Anyway, I thought antinomianism has more to do with lawlessness, not lack of fruit - although I suppose there is a connection. If one isn't staying within the law, there won't be fruit.
Still, I can't say that I look for fruit in others' lives. I'm more frustrated by the attitude that I hear regarding "freedom" in Christ, which I see leading to a casual - if not lazy - attitude toward humility and accountability before God.

May 22, 2007 12:29 PM

Blogger mark pierson said...

But I reflect back on Susan's post the other day..."Make Disciples...Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded".

Is that not Christ commanding us as Christians to obey Him?

May 22, 2007 12:31 PM

Blogger Susan said...

When you ask (perhaps rhetorically): "So what good would keeping the law be for Jewish people today?"
I see it exactly as your allusion to Paul - when with Gentiles, he bacame like them.
I see the messianic Jews doing likewise with their unsaved brethren - although the messianics know they are not saved by the Law, they become as their brethren (which is not unnatural to the messianics, having been raised in the Law) - to provide a witness to the Way - to He Who is the Goal of the Law.

May 22, 2007 12:33 PM

Blogger Susan said...

"Is that not Christ commanding us as Christians to obey Him? "
Oh, absolutely!
And He Himself said He has not come to abolish the Law. Also that not one jot nor tittle would be removed.

May 22, 2007 12:37 PM

Blogger mark pierson said...

Disciples progressively go on to reflect the image of Christ Himself, which is God's plan for ALL Christians - Romans 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 4:11-16; and ultimately, when we go to meet Him, 1 John 3:2

May 22, 2007 12:59 PM

Blogger Susan said...

I’d like to share a few thoughts of David Stern, PhD, who produced the Complete Jewish Bible. I’ll break them up into a few comments for ease of reading. All are from “Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message for Christians.”
“Law is not only a major impediment to Christians’ understanding their own faith, but also the greatest barrier to Jewish people’s receiving the Gospel… I believe that Christianity has gone far astray in its dealings with the subject and that the most urgent task of theology today is get right its view of the Law…. Christianity organizes systematic theology by subjects it considers important. Thus topics like the Holy Spirit and the person and work of the Messiah take a healthy amount of space… Judaism too organizes its theological thinking into categories reflecting its concerns… its three main themes are God, Israel (that is, the Jewish people), and Torah.
“Comparing Jewish and Christian theology, one finds that both devote much attention to God and to the people of God (in the one case the Jews, in the other the Church). It is all the more striking, therefore, to notice how much Jewish thought and how little Christian theology addresses the topic of Torah – generally rendered in English as “Law,” although the meaning of the Hebrew word is ‘teaching.’ …
“And that is unfortunate for the Christians. It means, first, that most Christians have an overly simplistic understanding of what the Law is all about; and second, that Christianity has almost nothing relevant to say to Jews about one of the three most important issues of their faith.”

May 22, 2007 1:02 PM

Blogger mark pierson said...

When we go on to be living memorials of The Father's grace and Kindness toward us in the ages to come, Eph. 2:7, we will do so as Images of His Son, Eph. 2:10.

May 22, 2007 1:04 PM

Blogger mark pierson said...

Susan, this is where I am coming from...


You'll find more on New Covenant Theology in the bluecollar blogroll. Happy reading!

May 22, 2007 1:11 PM

Blogger Susan said...

“Much of Christian theology about the Torah is based on a misunderstanding of two Greek expressions which Sha’ul [Paul] invented. The first is upo nomon; it appears 10 times in Romans, 1 Corinthians and Galatians, and it is usually rendered ‘under the law.’ The other is ergo nomou, found with minor variations 10 times in Romans and Galatians, translated ‘works of the law.’…
“Whatever Sha’ul is trying to communicate by these expressions, one thing is clear: Sha’ul regards them negatively: being ‘under the law’ is bad, and ‘works of the law’ are bad. Christian theology usually takes the first to mean ‘within the framework of observing the Torah’ and the second ‘acts of obedience to the Torah.’ This understanding is wrong. Sha’ul does not consider it bad to live within the framework of Torah, nor is it bad to obey it: on the contrary, he writes that the Torah is ‘holy, just, and good.’ [Romans 7:12]
“We should understand erga nomou not as ‘works of law,’ but as ‘legalistic observance of particular Torah commands.’ Likewise, we should take upo nomon to mean not ‘under the law,’ but ‘in subection to the system that results from perverting Torah into legalism.’ …
“The expression ‘in subjection’ is important because the context of upo nomon always conveys an element of oppressiveness. Sha’ul is very clear about this, as can be seen from 1 Cor 9:20, where, after saying that for those without Torah, he became as one without Torah, he stressed that he was himself not without Torah but ennomos Christou, ‘en-lawed’ or ‘en-Torahed’ of Messiah.’ He used a different term, ennomos in place of upon nomon, to distinguish his oppression-free relationship with the Torah, now that he is united with the Messiah, from the sense of being burdened which he noticed in people (probably Gentiles!) who instead of happily ‘en-lawing’ themselves to God’s holy, just and good Torah subjected themselves to a legalistic perversion of it.”

May 22, 2007 1:13 PM

Blogger Susan said...

With respect to Galations 3:10-13, Stern notes:
"'The curse of the law' is not the curse of having to live within the framework of Torah for the Torah itself is good....
"Sha'ul's point is that that curse falls on people who are actually trying to obey the Torah if their efforts are grounded in legalism. For Sha'ul, a legalistic approach is already disobedience, for the Tanakh [Torah, Neve'im - or Prophets - and Ketubim - or Writings] itself requires genuine obedience to emerge from faith...
"Thus, if Christianity cannot address the issue of Torah properly and seriously, it has nothign to say to the Jewish people. Individual Jews may be won away to Christianity, across the wide gap between the Jewish people and the Church, but the central concern of Orthodox Judaism itself is dismissed, perhaps with a casual and cavalier citation of Romans 6:14, 'We're not under the law but under grace.' ...
"For a key element of the New Covenant, both as promised by Jeremiah and as cited in the Letter ...To the Hebrews... is that Torah is writeen on people's hearts... It takes unacceptable theological legerdemain to conclude that when God writes the Torah on hearts he changes it into something other than Torah!"

May 22, 2007 1:19 PM

Blogger Susan said...

Hmmm.. when half of the comments are of the blog are by the original poster, it may be time to start a separate blog as well - a la Jazzy, ShilohGuy, etc.
(I guess I'm a bit more wordy than I like to think I am.)

May 22, 2007 1:20 PM

Blogger Susan said...


You wrote: "Disciples progressively go on to reflect the image of Christ Himself..."

But do all disciples?

May 22, 2007 1:21 PM

Blogger mark pierson said...

To some degree or another, depending on how long they live. Remember, there is the indwelling Holy Spirit Whose job it is to conform us to the Son. He Does live, and does work within, note Gal. 5:22-25. Also Romans 8:1-16.

May 22, 2007 1:57 PM

Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

The law was never given to be the means of salvation for Israel. Genuine faith in God produced obedience to the law. Legalistic keeping of the law did not produce righteousness.

My parenthesized "antinomianism" was meant to refer to all of the examples I gave, not just the fruitlessness part. Sorry.

Antinomianism can ultimately lead one to think that one can be saved without obeying God or recognizing the lordship of Christ. That's where that thought came from.

Mark, I never considered the commands of Christ to be part of the law proper. Of course we are privileged to obey the commands of Jesus.

May 22, 2007 4:27 PM


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