It’s commonly taught that God only had one law in the Garden of Eden: Thou shalt not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and evil. (Ge 2:17) The claim is that God started with just one rule to see what we’d do with it, and then added more laws as we continued breaking the ones we already had.
It’s true that God only explicitly stated one rule at the beginning, but that doesn’t mean there was only one rule.
When Cain became angry over God accepting only Abel’s sacrifice and not his own (Ge 4:4-5), God warned Cain that sin was lying in wait if he didn’t choose wisely. (7a)
When Cain murdered Abel it was sin, and God treated Cain as if he knew better, even though there was no official law against it. Clearly, there were unstated rules related to murder and loving others that were common knowledge, long before such laws were formalized at Sinai.
And long before God formally gave us any more laws, men became exceedingly evil and wicked (Ge 6:5); they were grievously violating universally understood moral law (Ro 2:15) and were judged accordingly in the Great Flood. (Ge 6:7)
And Abraham kept God’s commandments, statutes and laws long before they were officially stated at Sinai (Ge 26:5); God’s expectations were clear, even though they were not formally written down.
So, death reigned from Adam to Moses even though no one ever broke the same law Adam and Eve did (Ro 5:14); this proves God’s commandments were revealed and known long before He had them written down in Torah: sin was imputed, and men were held accountable for their sin, but this can’t happen unless God’s Law is known and understood. (13)
Torah was given at Sinai, but it wasn’t new when God revealed it; it was in play from the very beginning. (Ps 119:160) The precepts of Torah are timeless, applicable in every age — yesterday, today, and forever. (Ps 119:152)
Christian liberty is God encouraging us to determine for ourselves how best to follow Him: we each stand or fall before our own Master. (Ro 14:4-5) He isn’t encouraging us to sin(Ro 6:15), to break His law (1Jn 3:4), but to apply His precepts in extra-biblical matters in ways we believe most pleases Him. It’s something He calls us to do from the heart as we follow Him, rather than blindly conforming to man-made tradition.
A very challenging scenario for early Christians was whether to eat food that might have been sacrificed to idols. (1Co 10:28-29) It wasn’t technically sinful, but many weaker souls didn’t understand, so extra-biblical discernment was required in each particular situation. When one was offered food in a public context, either in the open markets or at a particular feast, one couldn’t be sure if it had been sacrificed to an idol or not, and how others might view this.
For mature believers, knowing rituals can’t contaminate our food (1Co 8:4), Paul resolves this with a don’t ask policy (25); it isn’t actually a matter of sin since no food belongs to an idol. (26) But if someone points out that some food’s been dedicated to an idol, then abstain to avoid causing others with a weak conscience to stumble. (28) Love limits freedom for conscience sake, not for ourselves but for others.
Taken out of context, this principle might be abused to claim that God doesn’t care what we eat now; no matter what kind of food’s available – don’t worry about whether it’s God’s design for food, biblically clean, or not. After all, Paul does say in the same context, “All things are lawful for me.” (1Co 10:23)
Yet taking such principles literally in isolation produces absurdity. If “all things are lawful for me,” then murder, sodomy and blasphemy are fine now? Of course not! And even if we limit this to food, is cannibalism OK now? Or poisonous frogs, cockroaches and flies? Not at all. Contextually, it’s clear that Paul is saying every creature God has sanctified as food for us in His Word is lawful and good (1Ti 4:4-5), regardless what ritual has been performed over it.
When wrestling with passages like this, trying to understand the relevance of Torah in our lives, particularly dietary law, we must divide the word honestly, rightly harmonizing each text with the whole of scripture. It’s true that Paul doesn’t explicitly delineate how every single law in Torah is still relevant for both Jew and gentile, yet he shouldn’t have to: Jesus does, as clearly as it can be done – it’s all relevant for everyone for all time. (Mt 5:17-18) Saints are classified by our mind towards it (19), and all who break it as a manner of life are guilty without excuse. (Ro 3:19)
Paul never says Gentiles don’t have to obey certain parts of Torah, breaking God’s Law up into pieces, some of which are irrelevant. This can’t rightly be done (Ja 2:10); we get this mindset from those who’ve corrupted the Word. (2Co 2:17) Instead, Paul asserts that faith establishes Torah(Ro 3:31), and that it’s all good when used as God intended(1Ti 1:8), pointing out that our old man hates it (Ro 8:7) and our new man delightsin it. (Ro 7:22) Once we’re aligned with Paul, serving Torah(Ro 7:25), we won’t be asking which laws we mustobey, but which ones we’re allowed to.
As Noah departs the Ark after the Great Flood, God extends the general dietary principle, what He’s classified as food. In the Garden, He had revealed his provision of plants for nourishment (Ge 1:30), and now He’s allowing anything that moves to be eaten. (Ge 9:3)
What’s interesting to observe about God’s dietary revelation is that it’s very general; important, critical details are omitted. For example, we shouldn’t eat certain kinds of plants because they’re poisonous, yet God never explicitly tells us which plants to avoid and why.
As a general principle, plants are food, but each particular animal species should only eat certain kinds of plants. God gives each species instincts about what’s good to eat, and places Adam in a special garden stocked with a wide variety of edible herbs and fruit trees as a start. He also gives Man intelligence to figure out the rest, so with a bit of trial and error, we do just fine in the antediluvian world. The key point being this: just because something appears to be in the general category of food, doesn’t mean that we humans should be eating it. We need wisdom and discernment to be healthy.
The same appears to be true for eating animals; this dietary extension to eat flesh applies to certain animals as well as to humans, according to God’s design in each of His creatures. By nature, some creatures are merely herbivores and some are capable of being carnivores or omnivores. So, as Noah considers God’s extension of the dietary principle to include meat, as there’s a design apparent in certain animals that enables them to eat it, there’s also an obvious guideline for Man about which animals are good to eat, which Noah understands to be clean.
This concept of clean animals wasn’t new, it was well-known in the antediluvian world, even though we’ve no record of any direct revelation from God about it. Perhaps Adam discerned that certain kinds of animals were distinctly different from others in a way that made them suitable for humans to domesticate, even though we weren’t eating them. For example, Adam might have discovered that milk and wool from sheep were especially good, and taught his sons about it. Perhaps this is why Abel chose shepherding as his profession. (Ge 4:2)
In other words, Adam had not merely named all of the animals (Ge 2:19), but he may have observed enough about each species to classify it as cleanor unclean, and taught the rest of us how to distinguish between them. Perhaps this is why, when God told Noah to take into the Ark seven of each of the clean species of animals, and only two of each unclean species, He didn’t need to explain; Noah appears to have already known exactly how to do this. (Ge 7:2)
And as Noah is leaving the Ark, contemplating the spare of each of the clean animals, he perceives that God will be pleased with an enormous sacrifice (Ge 8:20), an expression of God’s ownership of all things, rejoicing in His pleasure in sparing life on the earth.
After the sacrifice, noting the remaining three pair of each clean animal species, and only one pair of all of the other animal species, as Noah was considering God’s expanded dietary principle, recognizing that eating any of the unclean animals in the near future would cause that species to become extinct, it was immediately clear which animals God intended for human consumption: the cleanones, especially those which we were already in the habit of directly managing.
But over time, this knowledge about which kinds of animals were good for us to eat seems to have deteriorated to the point that it was appropriate for God formally define it for us; as men began to rebel against God in every conceivable manner, the dietary principle was evidently no exception. So, in formalizing His perfect ways for Israel, God reminds them to not eat abominablethings (De 14:3), animals which He has not designed for humans to eat, clearly explaining exactly how to distinguish between clean and unclean animals (6) and giving us a number of specific examples of clean beasts (4) and unclean ones (7), edible fish (9-10) and unclean birds. (11-18) This wasn’t a change in the dietary revelation, or even a new concept, just a formalization of what He had already informally revealed in us to establish clarity and accountability.
It is true that there is some nutritional value in unclean foods, but this should not be our preference when we have any kind of choice. Choosing to eat unclean meat is to disrespect and harm ourselves. As God has progressively revealed His eternal ways over time, He hasn’t ever changed His mind about what’s good for us, nor has He been arbitrary in His commands: they’re righteous and very faithful, each and every one of them. (Ps 119:138)
Scripture is perfectly precise; it isn’t overly specific, nor is it inappropriately vague. The detail God has provided is both necessary and sufficient for us; we must not add to it, nor take away from it. (De 4:2)
Yet there are a great variety of circumstances in which we might find ourselves, and a body of law which explicitly detailed how to act in every conceivable setting would be enormous, unthinkably vast, anticipating the impact of undeveloped technologies and innumerable cultural/familial complexities. Composing such a paint-by-the-numbers standard is evidently untenable as we consider the great variety of possible cultural and societal forms that might evolve across time.
Even so, all we need to be fully equipped to please God in every circumstance of life is provided us in the Tanakh, the Old Testament. (2Ti 3:16-17) We may derive from its precepts how God would have us act in every scenario we could ever encounter. It is miraculously precise in this regard, a living Sword, discerning every motive and intent of our hearts. (He 4:12)
So, in extra-biblical matters, which are by definition beyond the scope and obvious spirit of the text of Scripture, we are required and encouraged to use our own judgement and understanding as to how best to follow God, discerning His way for us through the precepts embedded in His Word (Ps 119:104), which He must help us understand (Ps 119:27) as we meditate on them (Ps 119:15) in the Spirit. (1Jn 2:27)
Each of us may, indeed, being at varying points in our journey after God, see things a bit differently from those around us; this is both expected and healthy. God does not want us to blindly defer to others in these kinds of things by failing to seek His wisdom and discernment for ourselves, but to maintain a sense of individual responsibility to walk and to please Him. He tells us to be fully persuaded in our own mind (Ro 14:5), and to be happy in the freedom to obey according to our own conscience. (Ro 14:22)
This kind of spiritual autonomy and individuality does not promote lawlessness, where everyone’s selfishly doing what’s right in their own eyes (De 12:8) in spite of what God says, justifying absolutely anything they like. (Pr 21:2) Such is the way of the world. (Pr 30:12) This kind of liberty only works well in communities of saints, who delight in God’s Law as He is writing it in their hearts.
Neither should we permit our individuality to make us unteachable, disinterested in the insights, wisdom and challenges of others. (He 10:25) It is our great privilege to edify one another, seeking the living Christ in each other as we help each other follow Him. (1Th 5:11) This is the very foundation of spiritual community. (1Co 14:26)
And, to be certain, there are clear guidelines for this kind of spiritual liberty; we must not allow it to become a stumbling block to our weaker brothers. (1Co 8:9) When a brother or sister doesn’t have a mature understanding of God’s Way, and would be tempted to violate their untrained conscience through our example, walking in such liberty violates the law of love and sins against Christ Himself. (1Co 8:12) Further, insisting that others follow our particular understanding when seeking practical consensus in community is likewise stubborn uncharitableness. In such cases, deferring to others, especially the elder and more experienced, is simply wisdom. (Ep 5:21)
The dangerous alternative to God’s design here is to impose universal compliance in matters which God has not clearly specified, effectively adding to His Word through man-made tradition, which subtly — yet inevitably — corrupts our worship (Mk_7:7) and turns us from the truth. (Tit 1:14) It elevates a select group of men above the brotherhood into a place of unhealthy spiritual authority over others, oppressing the saints into delegating their responsibility to discern the optimal application of God’s Word for themselves to these select few. This is entirely contrary to God’s design for our spiritual life.
To be healthy in God, we must each retain a sense of individual accountability to God as our own Master (Ro 14:7-8), and encourage others to do the same. (Rom 14:4). We’re each individually responsible for how we live before Him; if we’re in any kind of error (Ja 1:16), or are misapplying God’s Word in some way, it is no one’s fault but our own.
The head of every man is Jesus Christ (1Co 11:3); we are to be looking unto Him as our Example in every facet of our lives (He 12:2), delegating no step of this precious, eternal walk to anyone else. (1Pe 2:21)
God intends for us to learn from His design (1Co 11:14); it’s good in every conceivable way. (Ge 1:31) So when we violate any aspect of natural order, we’re asking for trouble.
This is the fundamental problem with homosexuality: it violates natural design. God calls this out when He describes it as changing the natural use into that which isagainst nature(Ro 1:26), and leaving the natural use. (Ro 1:27)
This isn’t complicated: we’re perfectly designed as male and female to procreate though stable, heterosexual relationships. Homosexuality is a fundamental, flagrant violation of this design: such relationships can’t produce offspring because they’re unnatural; it’s using sexuality in unintended ways for unintended purposes, twisting it, perverting it. (1Ti 1:10)
God forbids such perversion in His Law(Le 18:22, 20:13), along with many other kinds of sexual activity. Because God is good, His Law is also good (Ro 7:12) for us all, and it isn’t optional: those who refuse to obey God as a manner of life identify themselves as children of disobedience, alienated from God and subject to His wrath. (Ep 2:2-3)
Our desires and natural instincts are not the point; we’re all born with a sin nature, with an inclination to violate God’s law: in our natural state we won’t submit to God. (Ro 8:7) God didn’t make us this way; we’re fallen beings, corrupted through our own lusts(2Pe 1:4), with a will that’s free to depart from God, and does so with remarkable consistency.
It’s not easy for anyone to control and discipline themselves, consistently curbing their natural appetites for a greater good; this is the mark of maturity and wholesomeness; very few master themselves here. It’s a journey, and it takes time. To truly overcome our evil tendencies, we must start by getting a new nature from God (Ez 36:26); our old one won’t get us very far at all. (Ga 6:15)
When we give ourselves over to unnatural desires they become part of us, taking root and establishing themselves, corrupting our souls and enslaving us (2Ti 2:25-26); this ultimately drives us to sin and separates us from God. (Ja 1:15) Normalizing perversion simply encourages more of us to do this, weakening our culture and destroying the fabric of society.
It’s wisdom to recognize God’s perfect design in us, and to concede that any inclinations contrary to it are rooted in lies designed to destroy us. When we align our minds with truth, our passions inevitably follow. It’s a spiritual war with a real, evil, spiritual enemy (Ep 6:12), seducing and tempting us. We ought not to give such an enemy place in us, receiving his appeals to seek satisfaction apart from God. (Ep 4:27) Rather, we should ask God to help us learn to be content(Php 4:11) in Him, trusting God to quickenus so that we can live for Him.
If we could go back to the early days of the Church, and observe the followers of Christ during the time of the Apostles, most of us would be surprised by their passion for Torah, the Mosaic Law. The early Christians were zealous of Torah and we’re keeping all of it diligently, as well as they possibly could. (Ac 21:20)
According to the Bible, the original twelve Apostles who lived with Christ, walked with Him in Person and heard His teachings for three precious years, whom He commissioned to make disciples of the nations (Mt 28:19), never understood that any part of Torah, the Law of Moses, was abolished. (Mt_5:18)
These devout men, who walked in intimate fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, declaring unto us God’s way so that our joy might be full (1Jn 1:3-4), continued keeping Torah their entire lives, as if our duty to obey Torah was perfectly consistent with the redemptive work of Christ. (Acts 21:24)
These spirit-filled men were also deeply familiar with the ministry (Ac 21:18-19) and writings (2Pe 3:15-16) of the Apostle Paul, and were convinced that he also kept Torah as well as he could, and that he believed, practiced, and taught men to follow Christ the same way they did. (Acts 21:24)
Further, both historians and theologians verify that the idea of Christian’s having liberty to ignore certain kinds of Mosaic Laws was contrary to the beliefs of the early Church, only becoming common several decades after these early leaders passed on to glory.
So, the early Jewish believers, under the constant guidance and instruction of these original, spirit-filled Apostles (Ac 2:42), were all zealous of Torah, and the Twelve Apostles as well as the Apostle Paul were encouraging them in this. (Acts 21:24)
They weren’t keeping Torah in order to be saved, trying to establish their own righteousness as their unbelieving Jewish brothers were (Ro 10:3); they understood that faith in Christ establishes the Law (Ro 3:31), affirming its centrality in our walk with God. (Mt_5:19)
In other words, the thought of Christ abolishing Torah, and relieving His followers of their obligation to obey any part of it, was rejected by the early Church: this was considered heresy by the men who were the first-hand witnesses and custodians of the teachings of Christ Himself, and also by their direct disciples. Further, aware that Paul was often accused of promoting this specific, anti-Torah mindset, being very familiar with Paul’s writings and ministry, the Twelve Apostles concluded that these accusations were false, and that Paul’s beliefs and practices were perfectly consistent with their own. They held to the Law as the very definition of sin(Ro 7:7), a blessing to all who keepit. (Ja 1:25)
How can these things be?
There is only one reasonable way to interpret these facts and remain consistent with both scripture and history: admit that Christ did notabolish Torah, concede that He explicitly tells us notto think this way (Mt 5:17), and acknowledge that the Apostle Paul did not believe or teach this either. (1Ti 1:8) This fundamental error was introduced by ungodly men seeking to corrupt the Christian faith, and they did so very early in Church history.
The Apostle Paul himself warns us that this will happen (1Ti 4:1) shortly after he completes his ministry, spreading deception and infecting the churches. (Ac 20:29-30)
And at the end of his life, the Apostle Peter himself, whom Christ especially commissioned to care for His sheep (Jn 21:16), precisely describes what we find here: some things Paul writes are very hard to understand, which the unlearned and unstable wrest to their own destruction. (2Pe_3:16)
So, those who aren’t zealous of God’s Law (Ps 119:20), who aren’t meditating in it day and night (Ps 1:2) and trying to obey all of it that they can (Ps 119:6), thinking Paul teaches us to live any other way, dismissing any part of Torah, are not rightly dividing the Word; they’re missing God’s heart, and why He gave His Law to us (1Ti 1:5): the Spirit of Christ in every true believer delights in Torah. (Ro 7:22)
Our capacity for delight has a singular purpose: to enable us to enjoy a single Person — Jesus Christ. This is what we’re made for. (Re 4:11) As we discover Him, we’re willing to give up anything and everything for Him. (Php 3:8)
Christ is preciousto those who believe on Him (1Pe 2:7); in other words, those who don’t find Him precious haven’t yet found Him … they aren’t believers. Very few do find Him (Mt 7:14); these are the chosen of God. (Jn 6:44)
Christ Himself likens the disposition of the elect to a merchantseeking the finest pearls; trained to prize those of immense worth, he finds a single pearl of such incomparable value that he sells everything he owns to acquire it. (Mt 13:45-46)
We see the extreme intensity and degree of such passion illustrated in a sinful woman’s discovery of Christ; we’re told she loved much(Lk 7:47), and find her kissing His feet, anointing Him with extravagantly expensive ointment, weeping upon Him, washing His feet with tears and wiping them with her hair. (Lk 7:37-38) She is simply overwhelmed by Him; as are all who begin to truly apprehend the living God. (Php 3:12) Nothing compares to Him.
Of course, such love for Christ involves our sentiments, our emotions, the passion of our hearts, but it isn’t limited to this; such love engages our entire being: our wills, in obeying Him at all times and at all costs (Jn 14:21), our minds, in serving His Law(Ro 7:25) as it reveals His heart to us, meditating on Him and His ways day and night (Ps 1:2), and our bodies, as we spend ourselves in pleasing and glorifying Him. (1Co 6:20)
There’s a vast difference as well between cherishing Christ for what He’s done for us, and adoring Him for Who He actually is and what He’s like. A stranger’s generosity might bring forth passionate gratitude, but this is immensely different than finding unfathomable delight in another’s very nature. The former is merely self-interest in disguise, the latter a true cherishing of another soul. How might we distinguish between the two, if not in how we respond to God in our affliction? Are we after Him, or merely His gifts?
And how can we worship Him as He is if we misapprehend Him? If we’re not careful to understand Him, if we’re mistaken about His values, His nature and His ways? The enemy is constantly misrepresenting the divine Way and twisting His message to hide His true nature from us. (Jn 8:44) If we receive these lies about Christ, how can He be rightly precious to us? How do we rid ourselves of every false way(Ps 119:104), such that we’re free of these lying impressions and misrepresentations so we can value Jesus Christ as He truly is?
The documented life of Christ, His Words and ways as offered us in the Gospel narratives, provides a sweeping, panoramic view of His character, and we do well to ponder every detail. Yet a cursory, hit-and-miss sampling of His ways, dismissing parts we don’t understand or dislike, is misleading, incomplete, corrupting the word. We may easily misrepresent His heart if we aren’t deeply familiar with the context of His actions, and in the end receive another Jesus, a false one.
To know Him as He is, to find Himprecious, we must perceive this revelation of the nature of God in its rightful context; to see the fullness of Christ, we must turn to Mosaic Law, considering all His commandments, and observe that Christ loved this Law with His whole heart (Ps 119:97), delighting in the wondrous revelation of His Father (Ps 119:18) with unspeakable intensity. (Ps 119:20) We must interpret His behavior through this lens, or we will miss Him. (Mt 5:17-19)
It is impossible, ultimately, to decouple love for Christ with what He values. If He’s precious to us, we’ll be rejoicing in His heart, beholding His beauty, obeying His commands (Jn 14:21), cherishing His words (Jn 14:23), and seeking His face.
Christ gives us insight into the heart of Man, what we’re all like unless God interferes with our free will, in a parable about a king inviting his subjects to a wedding for his son. The king sends out the invitations and prepares a lavish feast (Mt 22:2), but when the time comes to celebrate, no one shows up: the prince has zero guests at his wedding.
So, the king sends messengers to call on all those he’s invited, encouraging them to come and enjoy the wedding, but all of them decline, every last one of them, refusing to attend. (Mt 22:3)
So, the king sends more messengers to plead with them, explaining that the food is ready, and that it can’t wait much longer; he’s laid it all out and it can’t be taken back. If they don’t come the food will spoil and the prince’s wedding will be ruined. As their king, he commands them to come. (Mt 22:4)
But the people don’t take their king seriously, having no respect for him; he’s a kind, patient and merciful man, so they presume he won’t do anything if they just ignore him. They simply go on about their busy lives, leaving the king and his prince to enjoy their little wedding alone; they’ve no interest in celebrating with royalty, to share in their joy and fellowship. (Mt 22:5)
However, a few citizens become so irritated by these invitations to the royal marriage that they capture the king’s messengers, treat them hatefully, and eventually kill them all. (Mt 22:6) The rest of the townspeople get wind of this, but don’t bother arresting the murderers or making amends with the king; they just go on about their business as if nothing’s happened, essentially making themselves out to be accomplices in the treachery.
When this terrible news gets back to the king, how his own people have murdered his servants in response to his generosity, though he isa temperate man, this outrage makes him so angry that he sends out the army to kill them all and decimate their city, razing it to the ground. (Mt 22:7) Those he has invited to his son’s wedding have shown themselves to be traitors and murderers; they have no right to dwell in his kingdom, much less attend the wedding.
The banquet is near to spoiling now, and there are still no wedding guests, yet the king is determined to share his celebration with others. So he sends out more servants to try to find travelers, vagabonds, the homeless, anyone at all that’s willing to come, no matter what their background is, and invite them. These servants do manage to find a few folk willing to oblige the king, and they provide each one with a special gift from the king: a garment in which to celebrate the wedding. (Mt 22:9-10)
The king is pleased that guests have arrived and enters the banquet hall to introduce himself, but notices one with no wedding garment. (Mt 22:11) The king is concerned about an intruder refusing to identify as his guest, and politely questions the man about it. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding, or he was overlooked. (Mt 22:12a)
But there’s simply no excuse for acting the way this man has, to ignore the king’s provision and crash the wedding as if he weren’t invited. As he faces the king surrounded by guests who arewearing the wedding garments, he’s speechless (Mt 22:12b): he’s treated the king, the prince, and the wedding celebration itself, with utmost contempt, and for no particular reason other than disdain for the king and his son.
The king is indignant at this insulting behavior, and commands his men to tie up the intruder and expel him into the darkness outside, leaving him to suffer indefinitely. (Mt 22:13)
What does this parable tell us about Man, about our natural state before God? If it tells us anything, it is this: Many are called, but few are chosen. (Mt 22:14)
In other words, everyone is invited to walk with God, but none of us will come to Him (Ro 3:11) unless God chooses (elects) us (Ep 1:4-5), and intervenes in our will by giving us a new nature that is not alienated from Him (Ez 36:26), a nature that is inclined to seek Him and draw near to Him, such that we are no longer at enmity with Him. In this way, God draws His elect to Himself, and these few precious souls do come to Him and are saved. (Jn 6:44)
Further, Christ is telling us that the root cause of this problem between Man and God isn’t a lack of information, or a lack of awareness; the root cause isn’t our ignorance of His interest in us, or not knowing how to connect with Him. (Ro 1:19) The problem is that we dishonor, dislike and despise Him (Ro 1:21): in our natural state we’re all at enmity with Him (Ro 8:7), such that we just won’t bother to seek Him out, even if He pleads with us to do so. And even if some of us happen to be willing to take advantage of His gifts, without His aid we won’t come the way He has provided; we insist on our own way, remaining obstinate, disobedient, alienated from Him (Ep 4:18), separate from Him and His way.
This universal behavior in Man is totally inexcusable (Ro 1:20), and we’re all guilty as charged. (Ro 3:19) If God left salvation up to us, to receive Him and His free gift of righteousness and eternal acceptance with Him, Heaven would be empty — not a single human soul would dance in its streets. God calls us all to the marriage of the Lamb, but He must choose some, working in us to be willing to come, or no one would. God is not obligated to choose any of us, but I am so thankful that He does!
The implication of the parable is clear: God is both the author and finisherof our salvation (He 12:2); apart from His aid, no one is saved. And salvation is much more than a willingness to take free stuff; it involves a supernatural heart-transplant, a new creature. (2Co 5:17) Those who are continually preoccupied with their own interests and focused on earthly things (Php 3:18-19), who are not actively loving and pursuing Jesus Christ, submitting themselves to God and to His way, remain His enemies, and will be destroyed. (1Co 16:22) No lukewarmness is to be tolerated within our hearts (Re 3:16); He has come to save us from that. (Ro 7:24-25) The springing forth of His new nature within us, delivering us from our evil ways and from this present evil world (Ga 1:4), demonstrates His choosing of us. (1Jn 3:18-19)
As Jesus is teaching in the temple early one morning, the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman to Him that they’ve captured in the very act of adultery. (Jn 8:2-3a) They set her down before the crowd, and start asking Christ if He’ll honor the Mosaic Law (Jn 8:4-5), which requires her to be stoned to death. (De 22:22)
Their motive in doing so is to accuse Him (Jn 8:6a); they’re setting a trap: if He sides with the woman, then the people will recognize He can’t be their Messiah (Is 8:20); yet if He sides with Moses, He’ll be in trouble with Rome. (Jn 18:31) No matter what Christ does, they think they have Him.
But Christ doesn’t answer them; He stoops down, ignoring their question, and begins writing with His finger in the dust on the temple pavement. (Jn 8:6b) His enemies, evidently energized by the thought of finally stumping Him, begin pressing Him for an answer (Jn 8:7a)
But then Christ does something striking: He rises up, publicly invites anyone who is sinless to go ahead and throw the first stone, and then He returns to writing in the dust. (Jn 8:7b-8)
Christ honors the Law, but in a way that’s fitting for their circumstance: lawful subjects of a foreign civil power. God gave the Law to Israel to enforce as a sovereign community, not as individuals living under pagan rule. But a sinless person acting on God’s behalf should be able to call on God to rescue them when the Roman soldiers storm the place. So, Christ effectively says, “If you feel you’ve got God on your side enough to defy Roman law, be My guest: go for it.”
As the accusers begin contemplating what He’s just invited them to do, and also noticing what kinds of things He’s writing in the dust, they scatter, every last one of them, being convicted by their own conscience. (Jn 8:9)
Exactly what Christ writes on the ground is a mystery, but the narrative suggests that He’s exposing the sins of the accusers, how they’re all presumptuously breaking God’s Law, and are worthy of death. (Nu 15:30) After all, they aren’t even following this particular law that they’re asking Christ to honor: in their ploy, they hadn’t incriminated the adulterous man, as the Law requires. (De 22:22)
The fact that Christ doesn’t enforce Mosaic Law here tempts many to claim this as evidence that He came to abolish it and give us a better one. Nothing could be farther from the truth: He Himself says so, explicitly. (Mt 5:17-19) Court is adjourned, not because God’s Law is obsolete, but because the community has opted out: there’s no one left to carry out the sentence. (Jn 8:10-11a)
Christ’s wisdom here lies in the fact that lawful punishment must only be carried out by recognized civil authority. Christ Himself is not obligated, as a single individual under Roman civil law, to enforce it, and He chooses not to. (Jn 8:11b) It’s the prudent choice, a testament to His infinite wisdom and discernment.
Knowing God, like we know a friend, is different than knowing about God. We may study theology and acquire a lot of religious knowledge, but it’s not worth much if that’s all we have. (2Ti 3:7) If we’re wise, knowing God and walking with Him will be our top priority (Php 3:8), the only thing we find noteworthy about ourselves. (Je 9:23-24) With all the deception about us, how can we tell if we know God, and how well we know Him?
Well, are we earnestly obeying Him, the best we know how? (1Jn 2:4) Are we loving God with all our being and our neighbors as ourselves? If we think God doesn’t mind disobedience, selfishness, lukewarmness (Re 3:16), or doublemindness (Ja 1:8), if we aren’t afraid of displeasing Him (He 10:31), then we don’t know Him at all; we’ve simply made an idol for ourselves after our own likeness, another Jesus. (2Co 11:4)
And are we rejoicing in Him? Is He preciousto us? (1Pe 2:7) Does meditating on His nature and His ways, on all that He does, bring a constant stream of delight to our souls? (Ps 119:97)
As God’s Law, Torah, reveals His nature and His way, the godly delight in the law of God (Ro 7:22), we serve the law of God. (Ro 7:25) We’re earnestly and consistently longing to understand and obey God’s Law more and more (Ps 119:20); that’s what it means to walk in the light with Him (Ps 119:45), the very definition of the New Covenant. (He 8:10)
Do we understand that God’s utterly sovereign? That He does as He pleases in Heaven and on Earth, and that nothing frustrates or worries Him? (Da 4:35)
Are we satisfied with the religion of our parents, accepting without question what we were taught as children, or what our culture and those about us claim? If we want God to leave us alone with our idols … He will (Pr 1:29-31) … to be trodden down in His fury. (2Co 5:11)
But if we want to know God, and ask Him to show us where we’re missing Him, seeking Him until He reveals Himself to us, He will. (He 11:6)