Saturday, May 21, 2016

What About those Old Testament Laws?

I have been asked on more than one occasion about all of the Old Testament Laws that were given to Israel.  There are 613 of them that have been identified.  Are we as Christians expected to obey and practice them all? Is it even possible? 

It should be noted first of all that the Old Testament Law was given to Israel and it was to govern their relationship with God (such as the 10 commandments).  Certain laws were to show the Israelites how to worship God and how they should make atonement for their sin.  Some of the laws were used to make Israel distinct from their neighbors and they provided guidelines for living (such as dietary laws, clothing laws, and special festivals).  When Jesus Christ died on the cross He put an end to the Old Testament Law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).  Therefore, none of the Old Testament Law is binding for Christians today because Christ was the prophetic fulfillment to the Old Testament Law.  The believer's relationship to the Law is different because of Christ.

However, Christians are under the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), which is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).  If we obey these two commandments then we will be fulfilling what Christ requires of us.  Please know that this does not mean that the Old Testament is irrelevant but that it plays a different role with the coming of Jesus Christ as the One who gives us His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21).  Many of the commands in the Old Testament fall within the categories of "loving the Lord" and "loving your neighbor".  In fact, 9 out of the 10 commandments are repeated in the New Testament with the exception of keeping the Sabbath. In fact, God's Spirit living within us gives us the ability to walk in ways that please Him.

The purpose of the Old Testament Law was to convict us of our inability to keep the Laws of God and to show us our need of Jesus Christ as our Savior (Gal. 3:24).  The Old Testament Law was never meant to bring salvation but it prepared us for the One who would bring us salvation--Jesus Christ.  The Law helped us also to see the holiness of God and His intolerance of sin.  All of God's Law is valuable today because it helps us to see the BIG Picture of redemption and our need for a Savior.  Apart from Jesus Christ there is NO RIGHTEOUSNESS that could ever save a soul from hell.  As Christians our responsibility is to love God and our neighbors.  In so doing we are upholding all that God requires of us and we are keeping the law of Christ.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Could Christ Have Sinned When Tempted?

Some would say that Christ had to be able to sin or His temptations were not real.  Scripture is clear that Christ never sinned although He was tempted in all the ways like we are tempted (Heb. 4:15).  Christ's temptations were very real while on this earth (Luke 4:2).  Christ's human nature and his divine nature coexisted during His earthly ministry and they worked harmoniously together. I believe that Scripture teaches that Christ could not have sinned, because that is a direct violation of the divine character of God--He would then cease to be God.

James 1:13 says that God cannot be tempted with evil (and certainly Christ is fully God).  Does this pose a difficulty for us since Christ had many temptations while on this earth?  Is this a contradiction? The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted and that He was fully man.  Scripture also tells us that Jesus is God and that God cannot be tempted by evil.  How do we reconcile this?  We must understand that at the incarnation Christ became fully man.  The two natures worked together and He was fully tempted as a man but yet in another sense He could not sin because of His divine nature.  Jesus' human nature never existed apart from His divine nature.

Here are some points to help process the temptation of Christ:
  • Christ was tempted in every way as we are, yet He never sinned nor could He sin. (Heb. 4:15)
  • If Jesus Christ could have sinned, then He could still sin today since He is the same in essence yesterday, today, and forever. (James 13:8)
  • If Christ could sin, then the Father and the Holy Spirit could sin as well--they are all God and they are all One. (Col. 1:9)
  • Jesus was not conceived in sin nor did He have a sinful nature; He was conceived of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:12)
  • Christ did not have to experience sin in order to understand it.  Christ, in His body, understood the pain of temptation and He relates to us today in order that He can sympathize and petition the Father on our behalf. (John 17:20-23; Hebrews 4:15)
  • The “impeccability” (meaning Christ could not sin) of Jesus Christ is important because it supports His divine character and attributes.   
God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) always works within His nature and character and because He does, He cannot sin.  His own righteousness defines what sin is and what He could never do. The uniting of the human with the divine will never be experienced by us and I would be careful suggesting that Christ could violate His own nature.  Christ can do anything and everything that is consistent with who He is.  Christ followed the Father's will all the way to the cross--sinning during the journey would have been not only a violation, but a failure for Jesus Christ. (John 6:37-40)