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Is the Word of God Meant to Be Eternal?

16 May
from Google Images

from Google Images

We who believe the word of God often think that, because the Bible says something is true or ought to be done, that this should settle the question.[1] However, would it make sense to us, and I’m questioning Christians at this point—would it make sense to us today to actually stone Sabbath-breakers (Exodus 35:2)? If a Christian plays football, would he be unclean until evening, because he was handling the hide of a pig (Leviticus 11:7-8)? Should divorce be permitted or should we stone those who engage in adulterous relationships (Deuteronomy 22:21-24)? If the Law of Moses was meant to be a moral code, isn’t every Christian bound not only to believe but also to carry out its moral values (cf. James 2:18, 24)?

Obviously, something is wrong with how at least some of us approach God’s word. God, through Moses permitted divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4), which, according to Jesus, was done, not because it was God’s ideal, but because of men’s hard hearts (Matthew 19:8). That is, men in Moses’ day wouldn’t have been faithful in marriage, even if commanded to do so (sounds a lot like our day too). In other words, at least for a time God’s word was not meant to be wisdom for the ages, but a temporary matter meant to be contradicted later and replaced by something that is eternal truth or at least closer to that ideal.

We have a modern example of this ancient problem which comes to us from the manner in which minorities are treated in the United States today. Making laws against their wrongful treatment doesn’t prevent the problem from reoccurring. The real problem is seated in men’s hearts. Although there is nothing wrong with many laws in America today, and through implementing such laws social progress has indeed been made toward the better treatment of our fellow citizens, such laws are also insufficient for the task and don’t work fast enough to satisfy the understandable yearning of those who are mistreated. Laws or more laws are not the answer, and God knows it and told us so in Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Ezekiel 36:26-27.

The Law of Moses was good (Romans 7:12), but God tells us, even before Jesus came (Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36), that he fully intended that it should be replaced. In the words of one of my favorite modern biblical scholars, N.T. Wright:

“The Torah [law of Moses at Sinai] is given for a specific period of time, and is then set aside—not because it was a bad thing now happily abolished, but because it was a good thing whose purpose had now been accomplished.”[2]

The fact is that the Old Testament with its claims and its heroes was imperfect and should be seen as something that pointed to that which was better (Hebrews 7:19; 8:13; 9:9, 11). While the perfect or the ideal is found in the Old Testament, the means to attain it was lacking and therefore, points to a new and better covenant found in Jesus. Paul put it this way. The Law was our tutor meant to bring us to Christ. It wasn’t meant to be the ageless wisdom of God, but the timely wisdom of God, intended to address specific problems, while offering a better hope in the future coming of the Messiah (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22; 7:37).

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[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about “making sense of the Old Testament God” is based upon the book: Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan. These are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Paul wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read concerning defending our faith.

[2] N.T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), page 181.

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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in apologetics

 

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