By the Scriptures

The thought that Christ came to start a new religion, which we now call Christianity, evidently lies at the heart of Christianity itself as a distinct religion. Christians claim to follow Christ, to believe in Him and worship Him, find their salvation in Him, and believe their unique practices and beliefs are what Christ Himself has commanded of them. For these divine instructions they rely exclusively upon the New Testament.

There is, however, a very basic problem with this understanding: Christ Himself never taught this, that He came to start a new religion, neither did any of His apostles. Both Christ and all of His apostles, including the Apostle Paul, believed the true faith was an old one, largely lost in Judaism yet embodied within the Tanakh, what we now call the Old Testament, which they referred to as the scriptures. (Jn 5:29) There was no concept of a New Testament (NT) scripture during the lifetime of Paul or the Twelve Apostles; they never based any of their teachings on anything but the Tanakh. They had no other scriptural authority, and scriptural authority was all they truly had. (Ac 17:11)

Both Christ (Jn 3:10) and the Apostles taught that the true and correct religion (Ju 3), the way to be in right relationship with God, was the historic faith embodied in the Tanakh. (Ro 16:25-26) Christ’s work and message didn’t alter this in any way, shape or form. (Ro 15:4) This is, in fact, how Christ Himself frames His entire ministry: He affirms that His message and redemptive work are grounded in, explained by and perfectly consistent with the Tanakh. (Mt 5:17-19)

While it is evident (at least to me) that the NT writings are just as inspired as the Tanakh, it is also evident that if we’re not properly grounded in the Tanakh we can easily misread, misinterpret, and misapply the NT, particularly the writings of Paul. This is, I believe, the fundamental problem with Christianity as a whole, and it is not a recent problem; it traces as far back as the early second century CE and includes nearly everything which makes Christianity a distinct religion, such as Sunday worship, the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper), a belief that Christ has abolished or annulled Torah, and a variety of corruptions of the gospel which are deeply inconsistent with the Tanakh. Though considered fundamentals of Christian faith today, such beliefs were foreign to the early Church.

In the earliest days of the Faith, during the Apostolic Age, the disciples of Christ were considered a Jewish sect, The Way (Ac 9:2), a subset of Judaism; gentile believers were largely indistinguishable from their Jewish brothers and sisters in their worship and practice. (Ga 2:14) This sect was distinct from traditional Judaism in two fundamental ways: [1] a return to justification by faith (rejecting Judaism’s legalism) and [2] recognizing salvation was available to gentiles even if they didn’t become Jewish proselytes and observe Jewish customs and man-made traditions (as required in Judaism). Apart from these two key differences, the early Church was essentially identical to Judaism; the Church simply corrected the errors of Judaism in these two key areas where she had departed from the way of truth defined in the Tanakh.

It wasn’t until after the death of the apostles, as persecution of the Jewish people become more intense, that a move began to distance the churches from Judaism and from the Tanakh, to redefine the Faith as distinctly non-Jewish. Deceitful workers found plenty of fuel in the Pauline epistles (2Co 11:13), inventing another Jesus, another gospel, and fabricating an entirely new religion. (1Co 11:4)

Peter himself warns us about this, that some of what Paul writes is hard to understand and easy to misinterpret, such that those who are unlearned and unstable typically wrest Pauline statements, as they do also the Tanakh, unto their own destruction. (2Pe 3:16) And Paul himself warned that soon after his departing grievous wolves would enter into the Church, not sparing the flock. (Ac 20:29)

To the degree any Christian sect strays from the Tanakh it will be in error, and when the lies are couched in the very language of scripture, those who are deceived in them are exceptionally difficult to reach, since the words and many of the key concepts are already accepted and believed, but incorrectly, out of context.

This is particularly true of the gospel itself; very few (if any) Christian presentations of the gospel are based on the Tanakh, and what most Christians actually believe about salvation cannot be found within it. In fact, most Christians believe Christ actually came to change the way we’re saved, such that we’re now saved in a different way than those in the old dispensation. Nothing could be farther from the truth, or more eternally dangerous.

As it was for me personally, Christians may indeed find themselves inoculated against the true faith of God, thinking they’re eternally safe when they aren’t, hoping they have spiritual life when they’re still dead in sin. (Re 3:1) It is sobering to realize that many, perhaps most of those complacent in their Christianity will fail to make their calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10), and will be lost in the end, as Christ Himself predicts. (Mt 7:21-23)

Given this tendency to misinterpret and misapply the NT, and the eternal danger this poses, a good litmus test for any Christian teaching about the nature of God or Man (Ro 3:10), or about our duty to God or Man, or about how to be rightly aligned with God and in fellowship with Him (Ro 4:3), is that it must be grounded solidly in the Tanakh. (2Ti 3:16-17) This is following the example of Christ and His apostles; it is exactly what they did. (14-15)

So, if our understanding of the gospel, the ground of our salvation, is not firmly established within the Tanakh (Ro 4:16), and perfectly consistent with it (Ps 119:115), we need to keep seeking and praying until we find God in truth. (Lk 16:27-31) Inundated by counterfeit gospels, the Tanakh makes us wise unto salvation, teaching us what faith in Christ looks like and how to obtain it (1Ti 3:14-15); we cannot afford to be amiss here. (Mt 26:16)

And if any other teaching or doctrine cannot be derived primarily from the Tanakh (Ro 15:4), being only reinforced and supported in the NT, we should hold it loosely, with a bit of suspicion and caution, at arm’s length as it were, and not close to the heart. And, certainly, if any doctrine contradicts or dismisses any part of Torah in any way, we may safely discard it as darkness. (Is 8:20)

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Circumcision is Nothing

The Apostle Paul faced a severe dilemma in the early days of the Church; circumcision, commanded by God (Ge 17:10) as an expression of saving faith (Ro 4:11), and obediently observed by Abraham and the patriarchs, had also come to represent ritual conversion to Judaism (Ac 15:1), a religion teaching legalism: salvation by works (Ga 5:4), entirely contrary to justification by faith. (2-3)

Should Paul discourage obedience to one of God’s core commands (Mt 5:19), now that it’s been twisted into the foremost expression of rejecting God’s salvation? symbolic of earning salvation by works? (Ro 10:3) How could he neglect a plain command of God in good conscience, knowing saving faith establishes the law? (Ro 3:31) Yet how could he encourage obedience here without compromising the gospel? (1Co 9:22-23)

Paul circumcised Timothy (Ac 16:3), evidently not as a convert to Judaism, but to fulfill Torah as a good testimony to the Jews in his community, since Timothy would be a constant, faithful fellow worker with Paul throughout his ministry. (1Co 4:17)

However, when Titus was being pressured into ritual conversion to Judaism Paul objected fiercely, understanding this as a direct denial and corruption of the gospel. (Ga 2:3-5) Making a severe and costly break with the legalistic traditions of his people (5:11), Paul concluded those pushing Judaism on the Gentile saints as a condition of salvation were unsaved and cursed (1:10); he even wanted God to kill them. (5:12)

Paul clearly taught that those who converted to and depended on Judaism for salvation were not trusting Christ and were unsaved. (Ga 5:2-3) However, though he was accused of teaching the Jews to forsake circumcision (Ac 21:21), both by his public example (24) and testimony (25:8) it is clear Paul never did teach it was appropriate to neglect physical circumcision as an act of obedience to God.

If Paul didn’t discourage Jewish believers from circumcising their children, he wouldn’t have discouraged Gentiles from doing so either; circumcision was not a particularly Jewish thing (Jn 7:22); it existed in Abraham, the father of us all (Ro 4:16), long before the Jewish people.

Paul taught it was unnecessary for Jews to renounce their Jewishness by undergoing a formal act of becoming uncircumcised (1Co 8:18a); similarly, he did not encourage Gentiles to renounce their national identity and become Jewish. (18b) Effectively, he saw national identity as irrelevant in the context of defining right relationship with God (19a); what’s important is faithfully keeping God’s commands. (19b)

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The Lord’s Day

When the Apostle John received the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Re 1:1), he tells us he was, “in the spirit on the Lord’s Day.” (10) This term, “the Lord’s day”, occurs only here in scripture, and it’s nearly universally understood by Christians to be a reference to Sunday, the first day of the week, though there’s no indication of this in the immediate context.

Why would Christians insist John is referring to Sunday? Typical reasoning is since the saints in Troas assembled for a meal and teaching on a Sunday (Ac 20:7), the early Christians must already have been observing Sunday as their day of rest and worship since Christ rose from the dead on Sunday. (Mk 16:9)

However, it is reasonable to think this particular meeting in Troas occurred in the evening, just after sunset on Sabbath, since Paul’s speech continued until midnight (speaking 5-6 hours straight is much more likely than 12-15 hours). The evening is when the new day begins, and it would be convenient for believers to meet just after sabbath on the first day of the week at or near a synagogue where both Jews and believing Gentiles would already be gathering to hear scripture read and expounded. (Ac 15:30)

Early believers only had the Tanach (Old Testament, there was no formal New Testament yet), and copies were very expensive; the synagogue likely had the only scripture in any given city. If one wanted regular access to the Word of God, synagogue was it. This is a very reasonable motivation for meeting on Sunday evening; we need not assume early Gentile believers were arbitrarily fabricating a new holy day to supplant the sabbath, breaking with their Jewish brothers and sisters to despise a basic command of God observed by saints for millennia.

Sunday was a workday for Jews, so it would have been problematic for any congregation with a sizeable Jewish element to assemble during the day on Sunday. There is no indication in scripture God told them to do so, there is no historical record of this practice during the apostolic era, and there is no clear motivation from their circumstances until quite late in the first century, so we may be confident they didn’t do this at first. The early disciples met daily, randomly, to eat and fellowship as much as they could, not just on Sundays (Ac 2:46), likely mostly informally in the evenings after work.

Paul’s instruction to Macedonian believers to allocate their alms for poor Jewish saints (Ro 15:26) on the first day of the week (1Co 16:2) is also offered as evidence that early believers were meeting on Sunday and setting it apart as holy. However, the text does not indicate this was a collection taken up in the assembly but dedicated privately at home.  So, this text also does not indicate believers were setting aside Sunday as holy.

The above comprises the sum total of evidence from scripture suggesting Sunday is the Lord’s Day, and it’s inconclusive at best. Christianity’s insistence on Sunday must be driven by something other than scripture, by tradition starting well after the apostolic period as believers were desperately trying to distance themselves from Judaism and the burdensome Jewish Tax imposed by Rome. The eventual result was a new religion which was foreign to the apostles, corrupted from the true (Is 8:20), an imitation and counterfeit using all the same words and phrases, but fundamentally different, with new traditions and practices, often deeply antisemitic.

There’s only one reasonable choice for the Lord’s Day, it’s the day God Himself blessed and sanctified, the day He rested from His creative work: the seventh day. (Ge 2:4) This is the sabbath of the Lord thy God (Ex 20:10), that is … the Lord’s day.

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If We Sin Willfully

God warns the saints to not sin willfully: He threatens severe chastening if we do. (He 10:26-27) What types of sins does this include? How do we avoid committing them?

The Greek is Ἑκουσίως (Hekousiōs), appearing only here and (1 Peter 5:2); it means deliberately, willingly, as opposed to thoughtlessly, instinctively, or from ignorance, weakness or under duress. It modifies the Greek ἁμαρτανόντων (hamartanontōn), to go on sinning. The thought is that the sinful action is habitual, premeditated, intentional, brazen, defiant … knowing the law of God and despising it. (Ro 1:32)

Biblical examples would include the sanctimonious lying of Ananias and Saphira, claiming to donate all the proceeds from the sale of their land while they were keeping back some for themselves (Ac 5:1-2), who were immediately and supernaturally slain. (Ac 5:5,10) The Corinthian who took his father’s wife (1Co 5:1) was delivered over to Satan by the church for the destruction of his earthly body so his spirit would be saved (1Co 5:5), and a man gathering sticks on sabbath (Nu 15:32) was promptly stoned to death. (Nu 15:35-36)

The context of God’s warning refers back to the precedent He sets in Torah: anyone in Israel caught despising Torah would be executed without mercy. (He 10:28) Mercy was available for those who sinned ignorantly (Nu 15:27-29), but there was no pity for those despised Torah and sinned presumptuously. (30-31)

If we find this harsh, inconsistent with the New Testament god of love and mercy, we’re trusting in another Jesus, one not found in scripture: the punishment for believers who sin willfully is not less severe but more. (He 10:29) Torah’s punishment was carried out by civil authority, but the punishment of believers is designed and carried out by God Himself and may very well be much worse than death. (30) Don’t go there; it won’t be worth it, not even close. (31)

David’s adultery with Bathsheba would certainly also fall into this willful category (2Sa 12:9); he didn’t die for it, but he may often have wished he had, for all the suffering and tragedy which followed because of it. (10-12)

It isn’t cruelty that drives God’s severity; God is good; there’s no malice in Him. God’s love moves Him to severity as appropriate. (Ro 11:22) The consequences of sin are simply too devastating to be left unchecked (Mt 5:29-30); God loves the saints way too much to let us go off and destroy ourselves and others. He will do whatever is needful to bring us back and keep us close because He loves us. (He 12:5-6)

When we’re tempted to sin presumptuously, we can ask God to keep us back from it and restrain us. (Ps 19:13) We can also assure ourselves that whatever it is that’s telling us it’s a good idea to sin willfully is lying; we can ask God to give us repentance to acknowledge the truth (2Ti 2:25-26), choose the fear of God and depart from evil. (Pr 3:7)

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We Have an Altar

To establish the relevance of Torah for today we must consider the sacrificial system: would offering an animal sacrifice today dishonor the sacrifice of Christ in any way? If we are thus serving the earthly tabernacle, are we necessarily forsaking the cross of Christ? (He 13:10)

A key text here describes God’s peculiar interest in His earthly temple at the end of this present age; He has John measure the temple, the altar and those who worship and serve Him there. (Re 11:1)

Though the Jerusalem temple is dormant for now, it will evidently be rebuilt and re-established in all its glory in this present age by the miraculous hand of God (2Th 2:3-4), and the sacrificial offerings will evidently resume. (He 8:4-5) So, even after the atonement of Christ is complete, a functioning Levitical priesthood is evidently not offensive to God. (He 8:4) Why would it be? After all, He designed and ordained it to help us all understand redemption (Jn 1:29): it never was designed to take away or finally atone for any personal sin. (He 10:11)

Both the earthly temple and its sacrificial system remain a precious example and shadow of heavenly things (He 8:5); they are not the heavenly reality (He 10:8), but constantly and perfectly point us toward this reality. (Re 11:19)

So, as the Apostle Paul fully participated in the Levitical sacrificial system with burnt offerings, sin offerings and peace offerings (Nu 6:13-14) without dishonoring Christ (Ac 20:26), we may each do the same if we understand these as merely shadows of heavenly realities (He 10:1), and not the ultimate realities themselves. There can be no more dishonor to Christ in a New Testament believer participating in such divine rituals with proper understanding than it was for an Old Testament believer to do so.

It is no surprise then that we find the early Jewish believers, the Twelve Apostles taught by the Master Himself, along with their faithful disciples, all zealously keeping Torah, including the sacrificial system, long after the sacrifice of Christ. (Ac 20:20) As they ministered powerfully in the Holy Spirit, they saw no inconsistency, knowing animal sacrifices never have taken away sins (He 10:4) but have always perfectly illustrated Christ’s redemptive work (1Co 5:7-8), reflecting the eternal mystery of divine atonement for sin in Christ. (He 10:14)

If it isn’t a problem for Jewish believers to participate in the sacrificial system today, if this type of worship brings no dishonor to the work of Christ and is perfectly consistent with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (Ro 7:22-25), then it is so for the Gentile as well (Ep 2:12-14): we may all continue to enjoy the beauty and mystery of temple worship on Earth so long as Heaven and Earth stand. (Mt 7:18)

So, while John doesn’t officially measure the court of the Gentiles (Re 11:2), God at least mentions it — that there is a special place for all of us at the altar of God, even in these last days, an open invitation to all to come, remember, understand and rejoice in the redemptive work of Christ.

There will come a day when this type of worship is no longer possible, or even helpful; when the earthly temple is no more, only a heavenly tabernacle will remain. (Re 21:22) In that day the Levitical priesthood will finally be obsolete (He 7:12), and thus the related ceremonial laws of Torah abolished (18-19), replaced by the Melchisedek priesthood of Christ (11), Who serves the saints eternally in the Heavenly temple. (He 8:1-2)

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Let No Man Judge You

There are certain parts of scripture which seem to say, on first reading, that certain parts of the Law have been abolished, rendering them obsolete, no longer binding or relevant for us today.

For example, when Paul says, “let no man judge you in food, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath” (Co 2:16-17), it’s very easy to conclude he’s giving us freedom to ignore some of these old Jewish laws. Is this because we’re already inclined to think this way? Are we imposing our view on the text? or is the text actually saying this?

Let’s consider it carefully: What does “let no man judge you” have to do with our own, personal moral responsibility before God? or with what God Himself expects of us? or with our own obligation to obey His Law?

Nothing, actually: this is about how others assess how we’re obeying certain parts of Torah, how they think we’re supposed to observe God’s dietary laws, festivals, holy days and sabbaths.

When others accuse us of not doing it right, trying to impose their man-made traditions on us (Co 2:20-22), we shouldn’t be intimidated into trying to appease them. We should only be concerned with what God says, not the customs, traditions and commandments of men. (Co 2:8)

This is how Paul lives generally, not placing much stock in how others judge and evaluate his earnest walk with God (1Co 4:3), and this is how he encourages us: search out truth for ourselves (Ac 17:11) and obey it all as well as we can, as unto God. (Ro 14:4)

So, how is a text which has absolutely nothing to do with our personal responsibility to keep Torah so easily misread as permission to break it? Our presuppositions can easily blind us to what the Word actually says; they are much more powerful than we might think. (Ro 8:7)

When error is common, taught us right from the start of our spiritual journey, it may take the special intervention of God to set us free (2Ti 2:25-26), even when He’s laid it all out there right in front of us. Our teachers probably mean well, but at times we all regurgitate what we’re taught, failing to think it through and discern the truth for ourselves. (Ps 119:99)

So, what does Christ Himself say about the continuity of Torah, and about our responsibility to keep it today? First, He says we’re not to think He came to abolish any part of Torah; He came to fulfill it: to honor it, obey it perfectly and complete all the prophesies related to His first coming. (Mt 5:17)

He then confirms that all of Torah, every single law, will be relevant as long as Heaven and Earth stand — until all be fulfilled: Torah is God’s standard of holiness until every single prophecy in the Bible has come true. (18)

Then He says, in no uncertain terms, that we’re all to be delighting in, respecting, keeping, observing, obeying and doing all of Torah that we can, including what we might consider the least of His commands, and teaching others to do the same. He even affirms that our obedience to Torah defines how we’ll each be esteemed and rewarded in His kingdom. (19)

That’s about as plain as it gets. How could He say this any more clearly, simply and directly?

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The Everlasting Gospel

Clearly and accurately identifying Christ, the Holy Spirit and His eternal Gospel (Re 14:6-7) is central to the Christian faith, yet given the many attractive counterfeits (2Co 11:4), it’s evidently no easy task.

Consider the claim that repentance, turning from our sin, is optional, that one may receive the gift of free grace in Christ with no strings attached. The claim is that God offers forgiveness to those who remain hardened against Himself, who intend to continue in rebellion against Him, who will not submit to Him as Lord. It’s claiming we can receive the gifts of Christ without receiving Christ Himself (Jn 1:12), that we may have eternal life without giving up our own life (Jn 12:25), without offering up ourselves to the Son in Whom this eternal life resides. (1Jn 5:11-12) Is this a false gospel, or the true?

It’s true we’re not saved by our works; there’s nothing we can do to earn salvation, or to add to what Christ has done to save us: justification has nothing to do with our obedience to God. But it’s also true that all who don’t love Jesus Christ will be cursed at His coming. (1Co 16:22) Those who pursue sin as a manner of life don’t yet know God (1Jn 2:4) and are heading for eternal damnation. (Ro 2:8-9)

So, offering unrepentant sinners a get-out-of-jail-free card may seem like free grace, but it’s a misunderstanding and misapplication of the Gospel: that would give us a license to sin and make Christ a minister / enabler of sin, and this isn’t Love. (Ga 2:17) Yet we don’t need to clean up our act before we come to Christ either: Christ didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Lk 5:31-32)

The biblical Gospel isn’t merely an offer of forgiveness, it’s an offer of holiness, without which we’ll never see God. (He 12:14) God’s inviting us not only to justification, but also to sanctification: He’s offering to transform us from rebels into saints. (Ro 8:29-30) The redeemed are elect unto obedience (1Pe 1:2), predestined to good works. (Ep 2:10)

The New Covenant in Christ writes God’s Law into the very fabric of our minds and hearts (He 8:10), equipping us to obey and honor Him: receiving Christ involves pursing this transformational relationship, in which He starts cleaning us up and making us more like Himself. (Ti 2:11-14) He enables us to start submitting to and obeying God from the heart so we can walk in fellowship with Him, in more and more alignment with Him. (He 12:28) If we aren’t interested in that good news, we aren’t interested in the Gospel at all. (Ps 119:155)

If we have faith to believe God is Who He says He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him by enabling us to find Him, then the Gospel invites us to come (Re 22:17); it’s the only way we can come to God. (He 11:6) Saving faith works in us not only to rest in God (He 4:10-11) but also to pursue God. (Php 2:12-13)

We’re to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness (Mt 6:33), believing Christ is both our righteousness and our sanctification (1Co 1:30), obeying Him with what strength He’s already giving us as we rest in Him, trusting He will deliver us yet more and more from our sin (Ga 1:4), confident in His promise to ultimately present us faultless before Himself with exceeding joy. (Ju 24)

This is the Good News, the everlasting Gospel; it has never changed, and it never will.

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This Is the Love of God

In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, as God introduced Adam to his new home, God gave Adam a single command, a Law; it was a dietary command: Of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, thou shalt not eat of it. (Ge 2:16-17) It was very direct, simple and clear, placing a boundary on Adam’s behavior.

We may be accustomed to asking The Big Why, trying to understand the purpose of God’s Law. If we think we understand the purpose, are we more inclined to obey a divine law if we think it’s good for us? Otherwise, do we tend to give it less importance, perhaps even ignore it as irrelevant or unnecessary?

We might do the same with this first command, asking what God’s intent was in giving it to Adam.

Was it to protect Adam? Does a good father leave poison candy out on the counter and tell his son not to eat it? I think not; we keep poison out of reach of children, under lock and key.

Was it to give Adam understanding and instruction in how to live? Again, do we teach young children about guns by leaving them unsupervised, playing around with loaded weapons? No, we carefully show them how to use guns safely, and supervise them until they’ve have earned our trust.

Then was God simply giving Adam a very clear choice? Love and honor Me by submitting to Me as God, or don’t: you’re free to reject Me, to go your own way and suffer the consequences. Adam had Free Will; and God was giving him the opportunity to express it. If there’s any other possible motive in giving such a law as God first gave Adam, I’ve not seen it.

Perhaps there’s a hint in the very name of this forbidden tree: the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It’s an appealing name, as if to call Adam to trust that God knows best, to continually deny himself this forbidden knowledge in order to commune with God. It’s as if God doesn’t want a relationship where He’s not respected, valued above all. And why not? Would Perfect Love allow anything less?

If this actually is God’s purpose and intent in His very first law, which seems likely, could this be so with the rest of His Laws? Giving us the opportunity to show Him we love Him? Again, Why not? Does God ever tell us this is the primary purpose of the Law?

God does, in fact, define what it means to love Him in these very terms: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. (1Jn 5:3aAnd He describes those who do love Him similarly: If a man love me, he will keep my words … He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings. (Jn 14:23) God has given us His Law so we might show Him we love Him; if we don’t obey Him, we don’t love Him. (24) Thinking otherwise is self-deception. (Lk 6:46)

We reveal who we are by our response to God’s Law: we’re either children of disobedience (Ep 5:6), deliberately breaking His laws as we like, or we’re children of light (8), doing our best to obey Him as well as we can.

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The Light of the Body

Our ability to visualize, to imagine, is grounded in a library of images stored in our brains, sourced originally from our eyes. From these images, and others we derive from them, we create dreams, what-if scenarios in which avatars of ourselves act out our fantasies in panorama. We’re able live in an alternate world, exploring ideas and theories to see how they play out without any real consequence. It is a fascinating capability with unlimited potential.

We might call this the mind’s eye; equipping us to navigate a complex metaphysical world much like our physical eyes enable us to navigate the material world. It is a gift from God helping us to order our steps and avoid catastrophe, both physical and metaphysical.

We should find it intriguing then when Christ describes the eye as the light of the body (Mt 6:22a), for the inside of the physical body is not typically illuminated with light; the eye translates light into electrical impulses which form images in our brains stored as memories; the light itself doesn’t go past the back of the eye.

Yet Christ speaks of our eye as a lamp illuminating every part of our whole body (22b), as if our bodies were complex labyrinths, the eye helping us explore and see what’s inside. He must then be speaking of the mind’s eye and the metaphysical body, the heart (Mk 7:21-23), that collection of memories, values, concepts, knowledge, emotions and attitudes stored in the circuitry of our brains and bodies, and also fully imprinted within our spirits and souls (Lk 16:25), uniquely defining who and what we are. (Mt 7:16-20)

As our physical eyes work by focusing, and effectively blind us when they don’t, so it is with our mind’s eye: in order to function as God designed, we must have a singular focus or objective in our imaginative process (23a), else we’re double-minded, unstable in all of our ways. (Ja 1:8) The rules we use to evaluate memories and the outcomes of our mental scenarios are the rules we’re using to navigate life. If the rules are inconsistent, our thoughts and actions will be erratic and incoherent.

As in the physical, metaphysical focus distinguishes between light and dark, and identifies, discerns and evaluates moral choices to understand how they have or will impact ourselves and others. This requires us to have a framework of moral experience and a moral standard by which to evaluate what we remember and perceive.

If we get our moral standard wrong, mixing up light and darkness, calling evil good and good evil (Is 5:20), this fills us with darkness which we perceive as light. This then is a kind of darkness, a body of lies which deceive, blind and ensnare us (Mt 23:b), aligning us with the prince of darkness (Ep 2:2), the father of lies (Jn 8:44), who then takes us captive. (2Ti 2:26)

Even when we want to obey the truth, the challenge is we don’t always know what our own rules are (Ro 7:21-23), the principles and beliefs operating within us, what’s driving our own behavior. (14-15) We all start out as darkness (Ep 5:8), making up our own moral standard as we go (Ge 3:22); we need to be continually retraining our minds, both the conscious and subconscious (Ro 12:2), to expose this darkness within ourselves (Ep 4:17-18), searching our inward parts with God (Pr 20:27), asking Him to expose (Ps 19:12), cleanse (Ps 119:9) and heal every facet of our mind and heart which is not yet aligned with His Way. (Ps 139:23-24)

Christ warns us to be very careful about what we call light, that it’s not darkness. (Lk 11:35) As we decide for ourselves what’s right and wrong, as our decisions differ from God’s as revealed in Torah (Ro 7:7), we’re choosing darkness. The more we do this the more our mind’s eye will play out our definitions and train us in darkness, filling us with lies about God, ourselves and others, producing bondage (Pr 5:22) and framing us as enemies of God. (Ro 8:7-8)

The more we align our moral compass with God’s (Ja 1:25), the more we’re walking in the light (Ep 5:8), into the freedom to which He’s called us. (Jn 8:31-32) Christ has given Himself for us that He might redeem us from our darkness and purify us unto Himself. (Tit 2:14) He is more than willing to do so. (Ga 1:4)

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The Law of Christ

There are many references to “the law” in Scripture; most of these are references to Torah, the Law of Moses. But Scripture also speaks of the law of Christ. (Ga 6:2) What is this law of Christ? How is it different from Torah?

The Chosen

It seems reasonable to define the law of Christ as the set of commands Christ gave throughout His ministry, yet most all of these don’t appear to be new or unique, merely inferences from Torah, what we should understand from meditating on God’s Law and fleshing out what it means to obey it. In this sense, Christ’s Law would be identical to Torah, unless He added something which can’t be found in Torah. Did He?

Yes. Christ did, in fact, at the end of His earthly ministry, introduce a command He explicitly identified as new, a law which isn’t found in Torah: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (Jn 13:34)

Now, the command to love each other certainly isn’t new; it’s embedded in the very foundation of Torah. (Mt 22:40-41) What is evidently new here is: as I have loved you; Christ has given us the perfect, timeless example of what it means to love one another, which we didn’t have before.

Christ is evidently not so much telling us to love here, but how to love; He is modeling what real agape love looks like. He loved us all during His earthly life, and His example is certainly new and unique, different from all who came before … or after. (Jn 15:24) Christ Himself has Personally demonstrated what He is commanding us to do, and He is telling us to follow His example. (1Pe 2:21)

So, is this command new or not? Well, when John comments on this, he first says it isn’t new at all, but an old commandment we’ve always had. (1Jn 2:7), However, he then in the same breath admits it evidently is new. (8-9) So, in one sense, we have always had the law of love, so it isn’t new; yet in another sense we’ve not understood the implications of this command in light of Christ’s perfect example, which essentially enlightens us to it’s true meaning, which isn’t actually a new meaning, just new to most of us.

In fact, before Christ, it was common for Torah teachers to actually encourage us to hate our enemies (Mt 5:43), but Christ dismisses this as darkness: it flatly contradicts the obvious nature of God. (44-45) Darkness claims malicious hatred is consistent with love, but the Light, which makes this lie obsolete (Jn 8:12), is even now shining. (1Jn 4:8b)

So, in light of Christ’s new command, if someone thinks they’re in the light, united with Christ, yet they still hate someone else, anyone else, we know they’re deceived, still in the dark: this isn’t Christ. (1Jn 4:9,11) If we claim to love God and hate another, Christ’s new command exposes us as liars (4:20); we can’t love God while failing to love who He loves, in the same way He loves.

And as we carefully ponder Christ’s new command, we find there’s nothing in it which actually contradicts or dismisses any part of Torah. This is to be expected, for Torah itself is the perfect Law of Liberty (Ja 1:25), the definition of love (Ro 13:10), just as Christ is. One can’t add to or take away from perfection and make it any better.

In fact, the Law of Christ itself commands us all to not think He has abolished Torah (Mt 5:17); we should be both keeping it, and also teaching others to do so. (19)

It appears then that the Law of Christ actually is Torah itself, understood and applied in light of God’s heart … nothing more, and nothing less.

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