Day 51 - 60 - Interpreting Scripture in Historial Context

3 Video Transcript

Video Transcript: The Historical Element (Dr Weima)

The fourth principle in our reformed hermeneutic is entitled The historical element. Now, the historical element on one hand is really not hard to understand. It's more in a challenge of do we appreciate it? And do we enact a principle for what it's worth. One example I could do to illustrate the historical element is to pick a passage of scripture that is kind of strange or unknown to us. Maybe a passage like First Corinthians eight, nine and 10, where Paul talks about meet sacrifice to idols, that would be an example of a practice in the Bible is a day that doesn't seem very familiar to us today. And so we have to go back in time, understand what was happening in the Greek and Roman world in order to appreciate what Paul is saying in this passage. Another way to deal with or to illustrate the importance of the historical element is to pick a passage that is really well known. And then to show that even though you know, this parable, or this this passage already, it becomes more meaningful, more powerful once you understand its historical context. And it's the latter of these two examples that I've chosen to do to illustrate the historic element. 

I picked the parable of the Good Samaritan, one of the best known stories found in the Bible. In fact, many non Christians know this story, too. But I want to suggest to you that you can't really appreciate this parable, you can't fully understand its power, its impact, unless you look at its historical context. And so let's do that for a few moments together. And the specific historical context is the bad blood that exists between Jews and Samaritans, the whole force of the parable rests on that historical reality. So we can ask ourselves some questions like who were the Samaritans anyway? That's a historical question. Well, they claim to be the descendants of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel. They remember how the northern kingdom under the Assyrians were captured in 722, and taken away, but there were some who are left behind and they claim to be descendants then of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel. And when the southern kingdom came back, they too were exiled under the Babylonians and 586, when some of the Southern kingdoms came back, and they met the Samaritans who member claim to be descendants of the 10 lost tribes of the northern kingdom, that bad blood that existed already between these two kingdoms flared up again. 

So in the book of Nehemiah, for example, you can see some of the tension already there between the Samaritans and the Jews. If you think of the geography of the land, it is also important in the north, you have Galilee where Jesus was born and gave much much of his ministry. In the south you have Judea. Now if you were a Jew, and you want to go to Jerusalem to offer up a sacrifice at the temple, you know, you might be tempted to take the shortest and most direct route north to south. However, that means you would go through that lane in the middle, which you could see is called Samaria. And you're not sure whether for the two to three day journey, you would be given lodging and food or that would be given to your animal. So instead, you have to cross over to the Jordan River, take the long hotter route and income up through Jericho, rather than set one foot in that hated ends of spies land of Samaria. We have the story in the Gospel of John of the Samaritan woman at the well. And she asked me a question, which is an understandable one, if you understand the historical context and this tension between Samaritans and Jews, the Samaritan woman said to Jesus, this is John four, verse nine, how is it that you a Jew, ask a drink of me a woman of Samaria and any person that they would say, Yeah, that's a good question. 

What's Jesus a man doing talking to a woman and especially him a Jew talking to this Samaritan woman? We call this the parable of the what the Good Samaritan. But that makes no sense to the Jews of Jesus day that's an oxymoron. There is no such thing as a good Samaritan. A good Samaritan would make as much sense as me talking about a good murderer or a good rapist. good Samaritans don't exist for Jews. Notice in the telling of the story, also what happens? Which of these three Jesus says do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers Now, remember, the story involves three characters, the priest, the Levi and the Samaritan, and this is then we would say in colloquial terms, a no brainer Question. It's obvious what the answer is. It's not the priest. It's not the Levi, it's the Samaritan. But notice that's not the answer that the man gives. Instead, the man says, the one who had mercy on him. You see, the expert in the law hated the answer. 

This was a dirty trick that Jesus told telling the parable, a story in which the heroes of the Jewish faith were embarrassed and our enemy, the Samaritan is celebrated. And so he can't even bring himself to say the word Samaritan, but instead uses a circumlocution. We call this a roundabout way of answering the question. You know what happens in Jesus day, if you start telling a parable in which the religious leaders, the priest and the Levi are shamed, and our enemy the Samaritan is honored? You know what you start doing, don't you? They start looking around for rocks. I mean, this is a dangerous story to tell. And yet this is what gives the story its power its punch. Here is this hate and despise Samaritan, it? Can you believe it? As the story unfolds from a Jewish perspective, he stops. And yet again, this is what gives the bottom line of the parable, its power. Let me give you the context. Before I read Jesus last words, the context of the parable, Jesus didn't just tell this parable for no reason at all. Jesus told the parable, because there was an expert in the law, some smarty pants and the Old Testament who had heard about this rabbi, this teacher, this Jesus guy, and he wanted to test him out. And so we asked Jesus a question, by the way, we're following now, our principle, right? 

We mentioned before about interpreting every passage in its context, in this case, its historical context. So this expert in the law asks Jesus a loaded question, right? He says, Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Now Jesus, of course, knows what's going on that he's been put on the spot any cleverly turns the table around on the ?????? He says, Well, what is written? You know, what do you think the answer is? This is a strategy I should follow. When students asked me hard questions, I should just turn around the question on them. But in any case, the expert in the law knows his Bible. And without hesitation, he quotes from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength and love your neighbor as himself? And the answer is a correct one. So Jesus says, You have answered correctly, do this, and you will live. And then the text says, but he is the expert in the law wanted to justify himself. And so he asked a second loaded question, a question intended to justify himself to prove to Jesus and the disciples and the perhaps gathering crowd that he had love God and his neighbor as himself. And so he asked the second loaded question, he says, and who is my neighbor? 

Now, the only answer to that question from a Jewish point of view is your fellow Jew. But that's not the answer that Jesus gave. Jesus instead told a parable, the parable of the Good Samaritan, to show that our neighbor is not just our fellow Jew, a person from our own ethnic background, our neighbor is not just somebody from our own socio-economic status people we feel comfortable with someone where you were willing to hang out with know our neighbor is anyone who is in need, and how are we to deal with our neighbor, Jesus at the end says, Go and do likewise. In other words, the same kind of compassion that this hated and despised Samaritan had, that's the way you have to act toward all those who are hurting and in need. Do you see how when we look at the historical context, this well known story suddenly comes even more alive, we better understand the truth claim that's being made. And we feel the force of that text still today. In fact, we can use our historical principle, not just in the exegesis of this text, but also in the application of this text. 

The application of a text like this can also become more alive when we kind of go back in time, and we ask some historical type questions. For example, when we hear this story, we quickly blame the priest and the Levi's. If we would have a drama, you know, and the priest and Levi would come on the stage we would probably go boo or hiss because we easily condemn them and we certainly don't put ourselves in their position. But I want to suggest you that that's a wrong way to think of the priest and the Levi's. They were after all religious people. They were a priest in the Levi they were people who obviously love God and we're serving Him. But, but they were people who filled their minds with excuses, we're going to see the really false reasons for not stopping and being neighbor to the person in their time of need. For example, maybe the priests and the Levi were worried about their own safety. 

This road from Jerusalem to Jericho, from the historical point of view, everyone knows is a dangerous road. Jerusalem is 2000 feet above sea level, Jericho was way below sea level. And it's only about 1213 miles, you drop a huge amount of distance within a short period of time. And it was a place where robbers and Britons would hide out and NAB unsuspecting travellers. And so if you were on a famously dangerous road, and you came across a man whose wounds were fresh, wouldn't you be worried that maybe the robbers are still around you might be the next victim. And so maybe they, they kept on going because they were worried about their own safety. Or maybe they kept on going and didn't stop because, well, they were worried the man was dead. Our tech says that he was unconscious, he didn't look like he was alive. And and that day, if you touched a dead person, see, from a historical point of view, when you touch the dead person, you were considered unclean. And that would make it impossible for the priest and the Levi to do then they're priestly in the medical duties. So maybe they didn't stop because the man was believed to be dead. Or maybe they couldn't recognize the guy. I mean, there are a lot more non Jews living in Palestine than there are Jews. And the man really has no clothes on because they were stolen. 

He's not talking, He's unconscious. So we can't tell from his apparel, or from his speech, what ethnic background he is, maybe even a hated and despised Roman. You see, the point I'm trying to show is that from an historical point of view, there are plausible reasons which the priest and Levi could come up with, for not stopping and being a neighbor to this person in their time of need. You know what, that's exactly the way it is for you and me. We, too, are like the priest and the Levi, people who come up with plausible reasons. They're really excuses for not stopping and being a neighbor to people in their time of need. We say things to ourselves, like, I haven't got the gifts to be a neighbor. I mean, some people are good at that kind of thing. You know, I had one of these spiritual gift survey type of things. And it turns out that I'm kind of awkward in these situations, I just don't know what to say or what to do. You know, some people are good at that. But that's not me. I don't have the gifts to be a neighbor. Or we might say, it's not my job to be a neighbor. That's the deacons job. I mean, we have this benevolence, fun, you know, the special fun, which is supposed to be for needy people, I give my money to that. 

And and you know, the deacons, you know, they they're supposed to take care of that kind of situation. It's not my job to be a neighbor. Or we might not say, but we might think, I don't know if we should be neighbor to everybody. I mean, a lot of people, it's their own problem. They keep making foolish decisions. I mean, if they would be like me a little more responsible, they wouldn't find themselves a lot of people in this situation, I'm not so sure we should be a neighbor to everybody who's in need. seen your friends, we're not so different than the priest and the Levite, we to fill our minds with reasons are really excuses for not stopping and being a neighbor to people who are hurting in a need. Do you see how I use the historical element in order also for the application of the passage to come alive, to learn something about the culture and practices of that day, in order to better understand the meaning of what God was saying to the people then in there, and also to bridge the gap to understand what God is now saying to us here. And now. And this is the historical principle or the historical element. It's kind of like going through a time warp. We want to go back in time, either to the Jewish world, the Roman world, but to the time of the Bible, because the more we can understand the attitudes, the culture, the practices of that time, the better position we are to accurately interpret the Bible. 

Because I know you know this already, but the Bible did not fall down from heaven in the King James Version with red letters and maps and a concordance in the back. Now, God chose to reveal himself in history through real historical people who lived in historical situations and places. And that's what makes this principle so important. So the more we can do to understand a passage in its historical context. Sometimes we talk about a passage in its cultural context. Sometimes we have a little German phrase, maybe I should mention it to you, because we often find it in some of the scholarly writing, they refer to the "Sitz im Lebenâ€�,"Sitz im Lebenâ€�, even in Germany, we translated the situation in life. But all of these things are this are referring to the same reality, the historical context, the social setting, or the "Sitz im Lebenâ€�, we would need to somehow go back and understand the culture and the history and the time in which the biblical text is taking place. And that's our crucial fourth hermeneutical principle. 

Well, so far, I've given you the principle, I've given you an example in order to make that principle, hopefully more meaningful, and to kind of stress the idea that it can make the Bible come alive. And for me, this is a personal truth. I remember I take trips to Greece, and to Turkey, and Israel. And that's another way in which we can understand the historical context where we understand how far places are from each other. And the more we learn about the Greek and the Roman world, for me, it's a very invigorating thing the Bible is, is not just made up of some mythical places, you know, and some events that happened a long, long time ago, I can imagine these things happening. And for me, it's a stimulating thing, when the historical context makes any biblical passage more understandable, and more real. But once we do that, once we enact the, the, the historical principle, we sometimes meet a problem, I call it the problem of the historical gap. And by that I mean that there is a gap between what the Bible is talking about and our situation today, the Bible is describing some practice or happening or activity, which doesn't seem so relevant for today, there's a gap between the then and there and the here. And now I call that the historical gap. 

Then when you meet that historical gap, then there are two different ways to respond. We could talk about scripture being culturally conditioned, or we could talk about scripture being culturally bound. One of these things I think, is true, and I want to argue for it, but the other one is false. And I want to argue against it. First, the true one, I think we need to say that scripture is culturally conditioned, the condition just means that the Bible is conditioned, it's shaped, it's affected, it's impacted by its culture. In other words, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, three chapters about meat sacrificed to idols, he wasn't thinking at all about us for today, he had no clue about us at all for today, he was thinking only about the Corinthians and their problem and their situation, that passage, those chapters are conditioned, they're impacted by that cultural setting. And the fact that the New Testament is written in Greek and the Old Testament is written in Hebrew, those aren't languages of today. They are languages of the Bible's time. And so it's another way in which scripture proves itself to be conditioned, impacted, shaped by its own individual culture. 

So I want to suggest you that the Bible or scripture is 100%, culturally conditioned, all of the Bible to some degree is impacted or affected by its culture by its historical context. Now, having said that, I would argue that none of the Bible is culturally bound that zero percent of the Bible is somehow stuck in its cultural context. What am I referring to here? Well, there are some people when they meet the gap between what the Bible meant then and there, and it seems not at all to be relevant to the here. And now. They say to themselves, oh, that passage is bound to its culture. That passage is stuck somehow, in, for instance, the first century, and it can't somehow transfer across the generations and be relevant for us for today. So when they would meet maybe a passage like meat sacrifice to idols, they would say and wrongly so by the way, oh, that has nothing to do for us in our Western culture. And so they just kind of skip over it. Those passages of First Corinthians are bound, they're stuck. They're so rooted in its historical context. They have nothing to say to the contemporary believer. And I want to argue against deposition. I would argue that even though all of the Bible 100% of the Bible is conditioned by its cultural context, its historical setting. I would argue that zero percent of the Bible none of the above is bound or stuck in its historical context or its cultural setting. 

I have a quote here from John Cooper, a colleague of mine at Calvin Theological Seminary, he says, But first, it is crucial to reiterate that all of the Bible is authoritative and normative for today. The issue is not whether the Bible is normative or which parts are normative. But how is it normative for today? It's a short quote, but there's some important things in here. He says, it's crucial to reiterate that all of the Bible is authoritative and normative for today. normative means there's a mustiness about the scriptures, right, that we need to do it or to submit to it. And Cooper's quote says that all of the Bible is authoritative and normative for today. So the issue is not whether it's normative or what parts are. So our task and exegesis is not to somehow go through the Scriptures and say, what things are still true for us for today. And what things aren't, is that we kind of chop up the Bible, and we end up with a quote, unquote, Holy Bible, right, with some parts that are still true and other parts that we either have cut out, and maybe not physically, but we think are no longer true for today, they're not relevant for us. Instead, Cooper says, all of the Bible is authoritative. The whole question is, how is it authoritative for today? How is it normative for today? How are even passages like meat sacrificed to idols still true for the church for today? Or to put it differently? We're asking the question, how do we bridge the historical gap? 

When you meet a gap between the then and there, the text and the here and now today? How do you make the move from then to here? And now? Well, I have an answer for that, that I'd like to suggest to you. And it's to make a distinction. It's an important distinction. And I'm not the only one who has done it. And you can see it already, in this acts of Synod, these documents from the Christian Reformed Church of which I am apart. They say a distinction must be made between a moral principle and the application of that principle. The former is normative for the Christian life today, the latter is not necessarily So now, we're gonna have a few more quotes that all say ultimately the same thing. So we've got to slow down and make sure we get this distinction, right, a distinction between a moral principle on the one hand, and the application of that moral principle, those are two separate things. Right, I'm going to talk sometimes about an underlying truth claim found in Scripture, and then how we apply that underlying truth claim in a new or contemporary way to today. Sometimes I talk about the two step hermeneutical or exegetical dance, we first have to find what that moral principle or underlying truth claim is. And then the second step of the dance is, we have to apply it now in a new situation, a contemporary situation of today. Some more quotes that talk about that same distinction. 

Here's a quote from Louis Berkhof. This is a reformed theologian. And he says this about some old testament laws, for example, he says, sometimes we may have to come to the conclusion that while certain laws no more apply in the form in which they were cast, yet their underlying principle is just as binding today as it ever was. So if you have some old testament laws, for instance, maybe some laws about how Israel, Israel life should be conducted? Well, the actual law in its existing form may not be exactly applicable today. But he says the underlying principle of that law is still true for today, versus if there's some Old Testament law about in a flat roofed home, about maybe having a fence right around the top so that your safety and the safety of your guests are ensured. There is a principle underlying that law principle of equity or a principle of justice, which still needs to be applied today, even though maybe the manifestation of that law, that specific kind of fence and that specific kind of house may not be so applicable. But here's another quote from the little booklet by Cooper that we've looked at already. He says reform hermeneutics recognizes the difference between a principle and the application of that principle, a principle states God's abiding will for our lives, but how that principle is applied may vary from time and place. 

So again, this distinction between underlying truth claim moral principle and the application of that underlying truth claim or moral principle. Here's another quote from the document of Senate it says, the biblical text often contains concrete applications made in specific historical situations, care should be taken not to transfer such applications directly to the different situations obtaining today, notice this phrase, one must first seek to discover the abiding principle. That's the first step in the two step exegetical or hermeneutical. Dance right, one must first seek to discover the abiding principle. And then only after discovering the underlying principle only after that first step in the exegetical dance is done, then we can do the second step, and that is seek to apply it in a different situation today. Now, this is not something that is unique, this solution to bridging the historical gap to the Reformed faith. I have a quote here from James Packer again, using him as a representative of the broader Evangelical Church. It's another kind of long Pauline sentence. But notice again, the distinction between universal truths and the application of those universal truths, he says. 

So just as it is possible to identify in all the books of Scripture, universal and abiding truths about the will work and ways of God, that would be step one and exegetical dance right, it is equally possible to find and every one of them universal and abiding principles of loyalty and devotion to the holy gracious creator. And then to detach from the he's from the particular situations to which and the cultural frames within which the books apply them. That's all it's a tough sentence, I grant you. But that's all that first step, discovering what those underlying truth claims are those universal and abiding truces, the language he uses, and then finally gets now to the second step at the end of the quote, he says, and to reapply them to ourselves in the places circumstances and conditions of our own lives today. Well, I've given to you this proposal, this solution to bridging the historical gap with the statements with this proposal of first step one, discover the abiding truth claim the underlying moral truth claim. And then step two, apply it in a new or contemporary context. 

That's all kind of theoretical. So now, I'm going to try to take that solution and apply it to three different texts. All right, so I'm going to give you I'm going to illustrate this for you with three different texts. Now, there's something similar about all three texts, and there's something different about all three texts. First of all, what's different, I'm going to give you three different texts in which the, the historical gap gets bigger and bigger and bigger, I'm going to start off with a text in which the gap between the then and there the Bible's day and the here and now today is kind of small, I am in a mood to move to a passage where the gap is a little bit bigger. 

And then the third example, the gap is going to be quite big. So that's how they're different from each other. But I'm going to treat each passage exactly the same way, I'm going to follow this two step exegetical or hermeneutical dance. For each one of them, I'm going to first step one, discover the underlying truth claim or moral principle, then once we've done that, then we're going to walk 2000 years to today, and we're going to reapply it in a new or contemporary situation. And so I hope by these three examples, I will in a more concrete way, illustrate for you this solution, how do you bridge the historical gap? How do you in a sermon or in a class move from the then and there of the Bible's day, to the here and now of today? 

All three passages come from Paul, you may remember that I'm an expert in Paul. And so I've stuck with somewhat safe material. So the first text is one where the gap is small, there's a minimal gap between the Bible's day and today. And the text comes from Colossians 3:1-3. And it goes like this. If Now, notice how artificial some of our hermeneutical distinctions are, I'm talking now, of course, about the fourth one, the historical one, but I don't forget about the literary, the grammatical or the Holy Spirit ones, those are all part of the process, too. And so I pick up the second one right off the bat with a little word if, because in the Greek language, there are three different kinds of ifs. I won't get into that now, other than to say, this is the if where you say, if such and such is the case, and I know for sure it is. And that's why some translations instead of rendering it as if this is the case, they instead translate it as our translation here does with the word since I just say this to show you that these five hermeneutical principles that I'm presenting you with, on one hand, they can be distinguished from each other for pedagogical for learning reasons, but on the other hand, they often do overlap with each other. Well, let's go back to our example. 

So if or from a grammatical point of view, better to say since then you have been raised with Christ. Set your mind and things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God set your mind on things above, not on earthly things, for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. So, remember the two steps, the first step is we have to discover the abiding principle or the underlying moral truth claim. That's our exegesis. That's the then and there question that we want to first answer and get that right. 

Now, notice what Paul says, he says to the Colossians, he says that they have in some sense, died and also risen with Christ. Now imagine the Colossians might have been a bit puzzled by that. They said, What are you talking about? Paul? I haven't died. I'm still alive. And Paul would say to them, oh, yes, you have Paul would say, this is his favorite phrase, by the way, if you are in Christ, right in Christ, that's a evangelical way of saying, are, you know, do you have a relationship with Christ? That's a kind of reformed way of saying, do you belong body and soul and life and death through your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ? And Paul says you do? If the answer is yes, all of that? Well, everything that Jesus did, in a certain sense, you did, it's almost like you're riding piggyback on Jesus and everything that he accomplished, you get to share in his victory. And so when Jesus died, in a very real sense, you died, or more specifically, your sinful nature died. And when Jesus rose and won the victory over Satan, sin and death, in a very real sense, you two have risen, right, you've been to quote from John, now a different biblical writer, you've been born again, right, you now have been freed from your enslavement to sin. 

And because you share in the death and the resurrection of Christ, you're not the same people anymore, you don't think the same, you don't act the same, you don't even talk the same. In fact, the rest of Colossians spells out the implications of this abiding or underlying moral truth claim, namely, that sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ has consequences for our moral life. 

So in the following versus policy, you know, when when somebody does something wrong against you, you don't get angry, you forgive them. And when good things happen to people, you're not jealous, but you rejoice and when good things happen to you, you give thanks to God, those are all the natural moral consequences of sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ. So I want to suggest you that my exegesis tells me that the truth claim the moral underlying truth claim of this passage is that a believer sharing and the death and resurrection of Christ naturally has consequences for the moral life that believers now live. That's step one. So I'm going to grab that principle here comes right. And I'm going to now go 2000 years, and I want to now apply it step two, to today. And so I look at you and I go down. Now, you're not really the same as the Colossians. I mean, you look different than them. I mean, you live in a different place than they do you don't speak Greek like they do. And so there's a bit of a gap, isn't there between the original readers and their historical context? And you and your historical context of today? 

Is that a big gap? And what's more, the underlying moral truth claim is every bit as relevant for you today, as it was for them, then, in fact, I can come to you, I need to come to you the audience today and say, Now, in a very real sense, you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ and God, exactly the words that Paul said to the Colossians. And at first blush, you might be surprised you say, What are you talking about? Brother Jeff, I haven't died. I'm still alive, right? And I would say, Oh, yes, you have, I would say, if you are in Christ, right? If you have a relationship with Jesus, if you belong, body and soul and life and death to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, well, then, everything Jesus did in a very real sense to you did you share in his death and his resurrection? And what's more, if you share in his death and resurrection, that has practical, obvious consequences in your moral life and how you think, speak and act? Did you see what happened here? Now, most of the time we do this. So naturally, in other words, much of the Bible, this gap between the Bible's day and our day is very, very small. And I'm gonna have to think very hard about how do you get from the then and there to the here and now we don't have to maybe think about it as a two step dance. But yet, I want to suggest to you it's an important and helpful if we do. Well, let's go to another example. And this one is where the gap is a little bit bigger. It comes from another one of Paul's letters. 

It's the fusions 211 to 22. And it's a passage in which there is division between Jewish Christians and FSS And Gentile Christians in that city, the Jewish Christians are saying, you know, if you really want to be up to snuff as a believer of Jesus, you got to be circumcised, you got to be circumcised, you got to be circumcised. And the Gentile Christians are saying, you've got to be kidding, you got to be kidding, you've got to be kidding. And so there was a bit of a tension between these two groups of people. And so Paul, not just in our passage, but elsewhere in the letter has to address the problem of division in the church. And what does Paul do here in this passage, if you take time to look it up, you'll see language that he repeats. Now, when an author repeat something, they're obviously emphasizing something right? I mean, good speakers don't say the same thing twice. Good. Speakers don't say the same thing twice, right? Oh, unless, again, they're stressing or emphasizing something. And Paul says, a number of times in this passage, that that the two have become one with the result that there is or there ought to be peace. The two, of course, are Jew and Gentile, and they become one. And that word peace. 

Aaron, a in Greek occurs four times in this passage. Because Paul's argument to the Ephesians is that the two of you, you Gentile readers, and you Jewish leaders who are divided, actually, Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. That's Paul's language exactly in this passage, with the result that now there's one new person, right, you're one body united in Christ, and that ought to result then in peace, right? The relationship of the church ought to be characterized by peace. Now, again, I'm going to do the two step dance in order then to discover what the underlying moral truth claim is to engage in extra Jesus, I suggested to you that Paul is claiming what that Jesus death has, in some real but profound way, taken, the two made them into one united body with the result that there ought to be peace that characterizes their interrelationship.

So if that's step one, if that's the underlying truth, claim, the moral principle, we pick it up, and now we engage in step two. So I, I now carry this principle to 2000 years and I look at my audience and I say to you, Now, wait a minute, you don't look quite like the Asians, there's a bit of a gap between your day and the sesiones day. I mean, you live in a different place than they do you live in a different time than they do you speak a different language than they do. And what's more, they were divided over circumcision. And, well, I haven't really met too many people today, you know, where churches are divided where one half of the churches, the pro circumcision crowd and the other half is the anti circumcision crowd. So there is a gap a little bigger one isn't there between the Bible's day and our day. But we do the same thing we did in the last passage, we reapply that principle in our new and contemporary situation. Because when I look at you and your situation, you may not be divided over circumcision, but there's all kinds of other ways in which you might be divided. Half of your church might be the kind of Oregon plains song singing folks. And the other half might be the drums and guitar and overhead Hallelujah, folks. One half of your congregation might be the the red letter, King James fall down from heaven with maps and in accordance in the back kind of folks and, and the other half might be the Eugene Peterson, the message kind of folks, or in a more serious matter. 

One half might be the vehemently opposed to women in any form of ministry, folks, and the other half might be the egalitarians who think there's nothing wrong with women serving in any role. Now, it seems to me that I have a right as a preacher or a teacher to come to you, and to take this principle and apply it now to your new situation. Now, I grant you that this principle in our text for Ephesians 211 to 22, will not answer the specific question of whether we should be some plain Oregon plain versus the overhead drums guitar Hallelujah, for one answer that question. And this principle one answer the question about whether we should be the red letter King James folks or the Eugene Peterson, the message folks, nor will this passage answer the specific question of whether we should be anti or for women in office. But as we seek to answer those issues on the basis of other texts of Scripture, we always do so with this principle very much in mind, namely, that as we debate these things we do so from a perspective in which which in Christ, the two of us, whatever two positions might be, have, in a very real sense, profound sense. We made one new person in Christ with the result that there is or there are To be peace.

Well, the third and final example is where the gap is quite big. There's a rather large gap between the then and there, the text and the here and now today. And the passage I picked is first Corinthians 16:20 be greet each other with a holy kiss. I have a picture here, I'm going to go ahead and just show you which illustrates, you know, the difficulty of this passage, you have the straight laced suit wearing Western Christian who wants to greet the era believer one way and the Arab believers ready for the holy smooch. But the western believer looks quite uncomfortable with this. So So what do we what do we do with a text like this right, greet each other with a holy kiss? Well, one thing we don't do is say, Oh, wait a minute. Here's an example where scripture is culturally bound, right? Where the gap is so big between the Bible's day and our day, that somehow this text is stuck in its own cultural context. And it has nothing to say to us for today, this passage greet each other the holy kiss is every bit as relevant for us today, as the last two passages we looked at. The whole question is, how is it relevant for us for today? 

That's the quote from John Cooper earlier, how is greet each other with a holy kiss? How is that still true for believers today? And in order to answer that question, I suggest to you we do the same two step, historical or hermeneutical dance that we've been doing all along, we first discover the underlying truth claim or moral principle, and then we can talk about applying it in a contemporary or modern situation. Now, in this third example, where the gap is really big, it may be harder to do our exegesis, as we may have to do a greater effort in trying to discover what that underlying truth claim is, there may also be more disagreement among Christians about that underlying truth claim. But I want you to know that I'm not ruling out that the actual underlying truth claim is that we greet each other the holy kiss, that's an open possibility to not really not out either. But let me suggest to you, my ex Jesus, how you might come to an understanding of what that deeper abiding principle or underlying moral truth claim is. So a couple of observations. The first question I thought would be helpful to ask is this. What does a kiss mean? in the first century, maybe a kiss means something different back then than it does for today. And very quickly, I found out that that was the case. with hardly any effort at all, I found out that kiss in the ancient world was what was a outward expression of forgiveness, a kind of outward tangible way of reconciling yourself with another person. 

Well, you know that from the scriptures themselves, don't you I mean, think of Jacob and Esau. Jacob cheated his brother out of his birthright and then spent his life running away from his brother, but he finally couldn't shake them here that he's always kind of, he's always kind of he was shaking in his boots, and he tried to buy his brother off by sending him all kinds of presents, bribing him, and he sent all of his herds ahead of him. Even his family went ahead him and then brave. Jacob came up bringing up the rear and then when they need the text says that Esau kissed him. Now that wasn't just Hey, bro. Long time no see, I mean, kissing him was an outward sign that I forgive you, despite your cheating me and my birthright despite what you have done to me in the past, I forgive you. Same thing is found in the New Testament with the parable of the two lost sons, not just the younger son, but the older son is lost too. But the younger son after he kind of comes to his senses, and remembers how good he had it with his dad, and he hopes to plead for mercy and he heads home and we read that the father gets up runs to his son and kisses him. And, and that's a powerful expression of forgiveness. I mean, even though son You want me dead, right? You couldn't wait for me to die. You want me to die right now to get my inheritance even though you shame me in this way. I forgive you. 

And by the way, that's what makes Judas kiss in the garden of seminary so blasphemous. I mean, because the kiss is supposed to symbolize oneness reconciliation, and it was just the opposite in Judas this case, I mean, Judas could have identified Jesus to the soldiers last somebody could have said, it's this guy, it's over him over there. But to do it by a kiss. You see, it kind of undermines the very thing that the kiss is supposed to symbolize. So the first thing I learned was that a kiss in the ancient world was an outward expression of forgiveness, a tangible sign of reconciliation between two people. Second thing I observed. greet each other the holy kiss, I said to myself, I think I've heard that before. And in fact, when I did a little quick concordance study, I found it occurs in four of Paul's letters. So in four of Paul's letters, he commands his readers to greet each other with a holy kiss. And I said to myself, well, Paul wrote a lot more than four letters. Why did he command only these four churches? Actually, it's three churches. It's the Corinthian church, two letters, the Romans church and the Thessalonian. Church, why only these three churches and none of the others. And then when I looked at each of the letters to those three churches, I realized that in the body of the letter and the main part of the letter, Paul has dealt with the problem of division. That's most obvious in first and second Corinthians. 

Right off the bat at first Corinthians after the opening Thanksgiving and chapter one, verse 10. Boom, right off the bat, Paul has to deal with a problem of divisions. And he goes on for many, many chapters, because it was a big problem in that congregation. And in Rome. I mean, Rome has Romans has lots of powerful theological truths. Yes. But when Paul applies those truths toward the end and chapters 14 and 15, he has some, some some lengthy discussion about the strong and the weak and the divisions, especially between Jewish and Gentile believers in the capital city of Rome. and to a lesser extent, we have a problem in Thessaloniki, in the Thessalonian letters, especially between the majority of the church and the attack toy in Greek, the rebellious eilers, those who were not working, but were being lazy, and sponging off of the hospitality and generosity of fellow Christians. So I observed that Paul doesn't command every church to greet each other with a holy kiss. But just those three churches where he had explicitly in the body of the letter, address the problem of division among believers, that was the second important observation I made. And then the third thing that is important, and that is where these kiss greetings occur, they occur in the end of the letters. In other words, they don't occur in the letter opening, they don't occur in the Thanksgiving section, they don't occur in the body of the letter, they occur in that fourth final section of a letter, the letter closing. 

And I happen to know something about letter closings, because I wrote a book on the subject. And I know from my study of Paul's other letter closings, that what that Paul is such a skilled letter writer, that he is able to shape and adapt his letter closing in such a way that it echoes in such a way that it summarizes sometimes the main points that he's talked about in the body of the letter, what's not really so surprising to me, a good preacher, at the end of the sermon will summarize the key points of the message. Paul, not so surprisingly, at the end of his letters, summarizes or at least, alludes to, or echoes the main points that he's been talking about in the letter as a whole. So he put all of these three points together, getting back to our tax, namely, that a kiss is not just a kiss, a kiss is an outward expression of forgiveness, or a public demonstration of reconciliation. Two, that Paul gives this greeting not to all his churches, but just those churches that have been or currently enduring separation division of one kind or another. 

And three, that Paul is apparently gifted enough, and has the practice of taking the letter closing and what adapting it expanding it so that it echoes, or it alludes to sometimes even summarizes the main point of the body of the letter. When you put that all together, it seems to me then that one can make a case that what Paul is really arguing about in the letter closing, when he says, greet each other with the holy kiss. That's an implicit command to do what he in the body of the letter had explicitly commanded them to do. Or to put a differently, the command to greet each other with a holy kiss is a command to deal with each other outwardly, in a public way that demonstrates the oneness, that togetherness we have in Christ, that kind of oneness togetherness that I argued for in the body of the letter earlier. And if that's the underlying truth claim, then I'm going to do the same thing I'm going to now do step two, I'm going to pick up that moral truth plain, namely, that Christians need to outwardly express or deal with each other in a way that demonstrates the forgiveness, the oneness, that togetherness they have in Christ. So I'm going to pick that up and carry it over to today. And I look at you and again, there's a gap between the Bible's day and our day. But I'm going to put this principle into practice into today.

And then today in a North American context, it probably isn't appropriate to greet you with a holy kiss, that would probably be misinterpreted, it would be better for me maybe to greet you with a holy handshake or maybe a holy hug. That would be the best way to put into practice that underlying truth claim that abiding principle. However, in other parts of the world, the best way to apply that principle is to greet each other with a holy kiss. There are some places in the world where the most powerful and effective way to demonstrate outwardly the oneness, the reconciliation you have with another believer is to greet that person with a holy kiss. 

Well, friends, this is admittedly a kind of difficult subject, but it's an also crucial one. Because there are some parts of the Bible that seem to be distant from today, there is indeed a gap often between the historical context of the biblical text and our own historical context. Now, we still have to highlight the historical context that was the first part of this session, how crucial it is and how the text can come alive when we explore the cultural context when we learn more about the attitudes, the practices of that day. That's how the biblical texts can not only be more understandable, but more powerful, more alive, more real. But in the second half of our time together, we've been bridging this historical gap. And hopefully you remember this two step exegetical or hermeneutical, dance, how we move from the then and there of the text exegesis, and we then reapply these moral truth claims these abiding principles in the here and now of today. This is another very, very important way by which we can read the Bible. for all it's worth.

Video Transcript: What Really Happened on Christmas (Dr Feddes)

We've heard the Christmas story read from Luke chapter two. And now I simply want to begin by asking what we really know about what really happened on Christmas. First question, was Jesus born in a house or a stable? I'm hearing some stables out there. Okay, was he born in a house or a stable? Seems that when I heard the most was stable, I'm getting married, suddenly going to labor shortly after arriving in Bethlehem. Okay, I'm here and most people are thinking that, yes. See, very shortly after arriving, went into labor. Did the local inn refused to make room for a woman in labor? Okay, we're all agreed, evidently that the local inn refused to make room for a lady who was about to have a child was in fact in labor. Did every home and bathroom ignore such an emergency? Well, overall, would you say did the city of David receive or reject the son of David? Okay, so we figure that he was born in a stable that Mary suddenly went into labor, that the local inn and other homes refused him and that the city about them basically rejected Jesus. 

Well, here's what really happened on Christmas. Jesus was born in a house. Joseph and Mary probably had been in town a few days before labor began, they never saw an inn, they were welcomed into family quarters, because the guest room was full. And the city of David received the son of David with humble, hearty hospitality. Now, when I say those things, you say, what Bible have you been reading? Are you one of those nutcase liberal theologians and just throws the Bible out and and just makes it up as you go along? Well, let's just take a deep brown. And look again at what the Bible says in the Christmas story. What really happened on Christmas? 

Well, the first thing we have to understand is that stables and houses were very rarely separate things. A stable was in the house, they would have a stable at one level, and then the living quarters would be a few feet higher at a different level. Common people had a house in which you kept the animals on one end, and the family room was a little higher than where the animals lived in only the very, very wealthy had a stable, separate or a barn separate from their house. And there were a couple of reasons for keeping animals in the house. 

One is that it kept them safe from being stolen. And even more importantly, it gave you a furnace. Animals, big ones in the house generated heat and help keep the place warm. And mangers would then be dug into the floor of the family room, just picture at the the floor of the family room would be about maybe four feet higher three and a half feet high, there'd be a few steps on one side of that going down into the manger or into the stable area. And then you might have a manger dug into the floor of the family room right on the edge of the stable area. And the larger animals could just reach up and eat out of that manger. And smaller ones, the mains would just store food to throw down to them during the night. And so you have this combo stable house where people would stay on the animals that helped to keep the house warm. And you would either have a built in manger at the one end of the family room or you could also have a manger built out of wood that could be placed down where the animals were. But if you needed a cradle, it would do in a pinch, and you can move it up out of the animal area and into the family room area. So a manger is in a house now we always think it's a stable because we live in an environment where people have the crazy idea that barns and houses ought to be separate buildings. But back then almost all the barns and the houses were a combo and a manger was in the house.

You might notice if you read the story of Jesus birth and Luke it talks about some of these things. But then when you read in Matthew in the coming of the Wiseman Where did they find Jesus? Going into the house it says they saw the child with Mary his mother. The word stable of course is never mentioned in any of the stories of Jesus birth. We picture it there because it mentioned a manger and we all know we're mangers are don't we? 2000 years later in a different country. We know we're mangers are back then mangers were in the house. When it says there was no room for them in the inn in the King James Version. We all know that that means there was some hard hearted innkeeper who said sorry. No vacancy, all the rooms have been paid for you're out of here. Bethlehem probably had no modern hotel like we would talk about in the first place. But even if it did have a commercial inn the word used for that commercial inn is not used in Luke chapter two, it look to verse seven, it says there was no place for them in the Casa Luma. 

You haven't been using the word kataluma a lot lately. But that's what it says in Greek. And the the most recent take of the New International Version does say there was no room for them in the guest room, because it's reflecting what's better understood about times back then now, Luke uses two different words in the Gospel of you, Luke, one of them he does use for an inn and we know what word is used for that. The Samaritan in the story of the Good Samaritan takes the wounded man and brought him to an inn. That is a commercial establishment where you can pay for a room and pay somebody to provide some food, the Samaritan brought him to a pandocheion, pandocheion is a commercial inn. On the other hand, would Jesus is going to celebrate the Passover on the night before he dies, to give some directions, and he says, Now you go into town, you tell the mouse, you're going to run into somebody, and then you give them this message, tell the master of the house, the teacher says to you, where is the guest room, the kataluma, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples, and he will show you a large Upper Room furnished, we all know that a kataluma is a guest room, except when it's used in the Christmas story, then all of a sudden, it turned into a commercial inn. But in fact, it is a guest room. And the folks didn't have room in the guest room for Mary and Joseph. 

So they took Mary and Joseph into their own family living quarters. Just get the picture again, you have one end of it with livestock, a lot of homes would only have their main room with livestock on one end and the family on the other. Some though, would have frequent visitors. And so they would add on a guest room. And they'd either tack it on to one end of the home. Or they would build it up above the house where they were staying. And when you had a lot of visitors say at Passover time, there were tons of visitors coming to that part of of Judea around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, then people in Bethlehem and Jerusalem very often had guest rooms because they're all the great feasts drew people to that area. And so they would have these guest rooms and when they were full, they were full now when Caesar ordered this big census to be taken for the purpose of the taxing people. There were a lot of people in the area of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. And Joseph and Mary likely had plans to stay with somebody, but the the guest room was full and so they were hospitably brought in with the family themselves. In the main living area. That's not quite the way we have tended to picture the Christmas story. 

But it is probably the most accurate reconstruction based on what we can tell just from the text of Luke, and the text of Matthew and knowledge of houses in the Middle East at that time, as well as hospitality behaviors in the Middle East. Just picture yourself even in our time, with much less hospitality than they had in the Middle East at that time, would you turn away a pregnant woman and send her to the barn? That probably just isn't the most likely thing to have happen at any rate. Um, Dr. Kenneth Bailey, who has lived in the Middle East for 40 years and has done a lot of research on this, and a lot of other scholars have concurred with him. And he takes the Bible as the Word of God. He says this is what he thinks really happened. The Holy Family came to Bethlehem, where they were received into a private home, probably a home of some relatives. Remember, Zechariah and Elizabeth are only a few miles away from there. If Mary and Joseph were hard up, they could easily have stayed with those relatives.

At any rate, the child was born, it was wrapped and literally put to bed in the living room in the manger that was either built into the floor or made of wood and moved into the family living space. The guest room was already occupied by other guests, the host family graciously accepted Mary and Joseph into the family room of their house. And typically at that time, at least, the men would clear the room if a lady was in labor, some of the women of the town and especially the town midwife would come and the baby would be born and then there'd be an announcement and people would start celebrating and dancing because a new child had been born. Now there of course, were greater choruses than just the local bethamites night singers celebrating this birth, as Luke tells us about with the angels. 

Now, in this story, This comes this news of a baby born in the living room and placed in the manger comes as really good news to the shepherds. The shepherds are out in the countryside and the angel announces Jesus birth to them. But even if this Savior, this Messiah, this Lord was really born would lowly shepherds, the welcome to visit his family, and to see him because shepherds were at a pretty low rung of society, they were considered unclean by some of the authorities. And they just weren't very important people. And so they're kind of scared of the angel and the angel says, Don't be afraid to have good news for you. 

And then he gives him a particular sign to show them that shepherds and peasants are going to be welcome here. He says the baby is going to be wrapped in cloth, just like any other baby of peasants would be wrapped in cloth, he's going to be lying in a manger in the family room of a local humble home, which means that the shepherds are going to find him in an ordinary peasant home, pretty much like their own home. Now, as for whether this was a quick and emergency delivery, we really don't have much indication of that. We just know that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem. And the Bible says while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, it does not say suddenly, upon arrival boom, they needed a place fast. It just says while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. So at one level, we can say, Well, what really happened to Christmas, it might be slightly different than some of the stories that we've had, in our own mind, we might have to drop the villainous innkeeper, since he's never mentioned in the Bible. And since an inn is actually never mentioned about a guest room. And we may have to change a few things and say, Well, you know, Bethlehem, maybe wasn't so bad. 

Maybe somebody took Jesus right into the living room, and welcomed him. And he was born there, and was accepted with just humble, hearty hospitality by the people who battle him. Well be that as it may. That's not what really happened on Christmas in the most important sense. When I asked what really happened on Christmas, my main aim is not to say, now I wish you people would straighten out your heads and realize that there was no inn and no mean innkeeper. And this is how it was. It's good to understand the story as best we can, in light of what the Bible says in the perspective of the culture that it was written in. But the most important thing about what really happened on Christmas is something that the whole New Testament tells us again and again and again. Luke is the only one who mentioned the circumstances of the birth and being placed in the manger, and Luke tells us that it's the Word of God. And it's important to know, but what really happened on Christmas is what the angels said to the shepherds. 

What really happened on Christmas was the coming down of the Son of God into the world. I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. That's what really happened on Christmas. a savior was born, someone came to save us from our enemies and to save us from our own sin. He has Christ. 

The Greek word is Christos, the Hebrew word is Messiah. He is the Messiah that God has been promising. He is the Lord. He's got himself come down into a manger, come to be God with us come to be our Savior. And this is something that is not mentioned only by Luke, as Luke is the only one who mentions say the manger. But this basic description is spoken again and again and again throughout the whole New Testament. in Matthew's account of Jesus birth. Notice that the angel told Joseph what is conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit, She will give birth to a son, and you are given the name of Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet, The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son. And they will call him Emmanuelle, which means God with us. That's what really happened on Christmas. God with us, coming into the womb of a virgin, to save his people from their sins. It gives two names here of the savior, Jesus, which means the Lord saves, and Emanuel, which means God with us. And these things that are revealed in the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke are spoken of again and again and again throughout the Bible. 

There are four hymns, at least of the Bible, which speak of this, we might not always read them as him But people who study these things very carefully see these as hymns, which the Bible writers took and then quoted as part of the Scriptures. The first is simply John chapter one, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. and the Word was God. He was with God. In the beginning through him, all things were made. Without him, nothing was made that has been made in Him was life and that life was the light of man. It goes on to say, this word who was God became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only who came from the Father full of grace and truth. No one has ever seen God but God, the one and only who is at the father's side has made him known. This is a great hymn of the early church, which is also recorded by the apostle John, that the one who was always with God, and was God through them, all things were made, became flesh. 

The big word for that is incarnation, embodiment, taking a body, the eternal, invisible, God of the universe, takes a body, the one who nobody has ever seen, comes in a form that cannot only be seen, but can be heard, and can be touched. And if you ever wondered what God is like, you look at Jesus and you say, that, what God is like, if, God can be translated into human terms at all is great, and majestic and mysterious and impossibly powerful being can be understood in human terms at all. 

And he can be because he chose to be, this is it, the Word became flesh, the word who is the logic of the whole universe, became a tiny baby, another hymn Philippians chapter two, Christ Jesus being in very nature, God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted into the highest place and gave them the name that's above every name. That is the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth, and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, the great hymn Joy to the World follows Philippians two Joy to the world, the Lord has come and that music keeps dropping as the Lord has come. And then it says let her receive her kind. Philippians Two he humbled himself, became one of us, being found in human likeness, bore our sins on the cross, and then God raised him back up again, to the highest place, God became humans. 

That's what happened at Christmas. And I'm just telling you what the Bible says again, and again says the same thing. In different words, he's God, he came among us. And he did that to die for us. First Timothy 3:16, is another hymn that the Apostle Paul quotes in his writings, great Indeed, We confess is the mystery of godliness. He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believes down in the world, taken up in glory. This is God manifested in the flesh. Jesus, in some respects was so ordinary, that the people who knew him found it hard to believe that he was God with them. For a time his own brothers and sisters did not believe in him. His neighbor said, we know who this guy is. He's the son of Joseph and Mary, we know his, his family, he's been among us what's so special about him? That's what's involved in being manifested in the flesh. But even as these manifests in his flesh is vindicated by the Spirit, because not too many babies are born of a virgin. 

And not too many men can just say your sins are forgiven, and then he'll a paralyzed person, or tell somebody to come out of a grave and actually do it. He was vindicated by the Spirit, by the power of His miracles. And surprisingly, the Bible speaks of the spirit of Him who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, he was vindicated by the Spirit. When he defeated death itself. He was seen by angels. 

At his birth, he was seen and ministered to by angels after his temptations he was seen and testified to by the angels at his resurrection. After that, he said, Go and declare the Gospels, all nations he proclaimed among the nations believed on in the world, taken up in glory. The church had just this incredible sense of joy and wonder and amazement in those early days that God would have become one of us. And this is one of the hymns to that God become flesh. Colossians chapter one, the apostle Paul has yet another him about who Jesus is. He's the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created in heaven on earth, whether visible and invisible, whether thrones, the rulers, the dominions, or authorities, all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things in him all things hold together. And he's the head of the body, the church, he has the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might be preeminent. 

For him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross, that is, him of just the sheer greatness of Jesus as creator, the one in whom all of God's fullness is packed. And he came for a purpose, to take over everything, and redeem it, and reclaim people not only, but reclaim the creation, reclaim the earth, reclaim the universe. 

And to do that, he had to shed his own blood on the cross he was born in order to make peace through his blood. Jesus Himself said, God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Jesus did not start to exist, when Mary got pregnant, or when Mary had the baby. That's not when the Son of God started to exist, the Son of God existed with God, the Father and the Holy Spirit from all eternity as the blessing Trinity. And it was only when Jesus was born of Mary that the Son of God came into the world you'll you'll notice that phrase again and again through the New Testament, not just that Jesus began to exist, never says that. It says he came into the world. Here's a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world, to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. He came into the world, and why did he come into the world, to save sinners. That's why His name is Jesus, the Lord saves, he came into the world, just about everything about Christianity is stated, in that sentence, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. It tells us that before he came into the world, he was around as the great and Almighty God. 

And he came into the world as a man in order to save sinners. And that last unpleasant little phrase of whom I am the worst, say, Well, yeah, I understand who the original writer of that that was Paul, that blasphemer, the murderer of Christians, I can see why that bozo would say, yeah, I'm the worst of sinners. He doesn't say, of whom I was the worst. He says, of whom I am the worst. He had a consciousness even after his redemption, in the sight of God, that of all the centers in the world, he was worse on the list. Now, how can he say that he was a mighty missionary, a tremendously holy and godly man, a person who has stood in the presence of God, and has understood something of the holiness of God, and has begun to understand myself finds it hard to believe that anybody's worse than that. 

We only know other people's sins and difficulties at a distance. We know what our own thoughts are. We know what our own hearts are, if they were all just played out on a screen for a few hours. We would all be run out of town very quickly. And we know where we stand, or at least we ought to. We might be a little humbler, if we took the time to stand in the light of God's presence. But when we come on Christmas, we don't have to pretend we're better than everybody else. We don't even have to make those comparisons anymore and say, God, I thank you that I'm not like other men, like those bad guys over here, because here's the list of good things I do. Instead, we just say God, be merciful to me, a sinner on the worst. And I am so glad that you came into the world to save sinners. So that's what really happened on Christmas Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Who was the worst? Jesus said the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. When he was criticized for hanging out with the wrong kind of people, Jesus says, Well, you guys may think they're the wrong kind of people. 

But that's the right kind of people that I came to save, the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. That's why he came in that manger, not just so we can have cute stories to tell, but to save a loss. First John three says he appeared, so that he might take away our sins, and in the him is no sin, the reason the Son of God appeared, was to destroy the devil's work. He deals with the sins within us, as well as with the oppression and the wicked power of the evil one himself. At one level, nearly everybody in Judea at the time of Jesus birth was hoping for a savior. They all want to be saved from hostile powers, and from the occupation of Rome. And it was a very unpopular idea. When Jesus or John the Baptist came with a message that first of all, God was here to say, you repent, I'm here to save you from your sins. We all want to be saved from the bad guys. Nobody wants to be the bad guy. And there is no use in celebrating Christmas unless you first say I'm the bad guy. I'm the bad girl. If it weren't for the oppressors, I'd still have more than my share problems, even if it weren't for Satan himself. 

The fact is, I'm pretty good at sending on my own steam, without any suggestions from him. And so we celebrate that he appeared that he might take away our sins and destroy the devil's work in us and make us less like the devil and a whole lot more like Him. Galatians four says, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, remember, Jesus didn't start to exist. God took his dear son we had love from all eternity. And he sent him forth born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption. as sons God sent His Son to make us his sons and his daughters, his children, adopted. To all who received him to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. That's what really happened at Christmas, he became a child of man, so that the children of men could become the children of God. So whatever you happen to think about the inn, or the placement of the manger, I can tell you about the placement of the Son of God, the Son of God placed himself in the body of a tiny baby. And he did that to save us from our sin, to break the grip of Satan, to liberate us and to set us free. 

Hebrews one God spoke in a lot of different ways through the prophets, but in these last days, he spoke to us through His Son, the son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. And afternoon provided purification for sins. He sat down the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Again, you have that connection. He's God. And he came to us to provide purification for sin.

You say, bye. You've been repeating yourself a lot. Yes, I have. Because this is something that the New Testament does, it repeats, and repeats, and repeats, and repeats, not the details about the manger or the inn. It repeats and repeats and repeats, that God sent forth his Son, that Jesus is God the Son, that he came to save us from our sins, what really happened on Christmas, I bring you good news of great joy. For all the people today in the town of David, a savior, has been born to you. He is Christ, Messiah. He is the Lord God with us. And we have some hymns of our own. One of the best of all the Christmas hymns captures very much of this scripture, from Hark the herald angels saying Christ by highest heaven adored Christ, the everlasting Lord, laid him time behold him come, offspring of a Virgin's womb, veiled in flesh, the God had to see, Hail the incarnate deity the embodied God, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus are Emanuel hail to heaven born prince of peace. Hail the Sun of Righteousness, light and life to all he brings resin with healing in his wings. 

Mild, he lays his glory by born that man no more may die born to raised the sons of Earth, born to give them second birth. Hark the herald angels sing Glory to the newborn King dear friends give Him glory. Welcome him into your lives receive again that great promise to those who received him to those who believed on his name. He gave the right to be called children of God. Let's stand together and sing the words of Hark the herald angels sing Glory to the newborn king.

Video Transcript: What Do Old Testament Laws Mean for Today? (Dr Feddes)

What do Old Testament laws mean for today? If you're someone who takes the Bible as God's word, and you want to take all of God's Word to heart, what do you make of all of those old testament laws? According to the count of the rabbi's, there are 613 laws, just in the five books of Moses, what do we do with those laws? And what do they mean for us? Here's just a sample of some laws from the book of Leviticus, you shall bring your offerings of livestock from the herd or the flock. And there are many different laws about what kind of offerings you bring, what kind of animals they should be, how you should slaughter them? Are we supposed to be slaughtering animals still today? And follow that command from the Bible? How about this one? Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is detestable to you? Does that mean you're sinning? If you eat shrimp, or lobster, or oysters, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. How does that one apply to us today? Anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death? Do we execute children and young people who directly curse a father or a mother? You shall dwell in booths for seven days every year should have a feast of tabernacles, where you make little booths for yourselves out of branches. And you live in those? Are we supposed to be doing that yet today? 

In order to obey God, that's just a small sample of some of the laws that are in Leviticus. And I could give many, many, many similar examples. How do we understand these laws? And how do they apply to us today? Well, does Jesus get rid of the law, some people would say, Oh, just forget those books of Moses, forget the rest of the Old Testament, we live in the New Testament. That is not what Jesus says, Do not think that I have come to abolish to get rid of the law or the prophets, I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the law, until everything is accomplished. So in some sense, as long as the universe lasts, the law lasts and must be fulfilled. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments, says Jesus, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands, will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Jesus is very clear that he did not come to just wipe out the law. And he's very clear that even the least commandment matters a lot. And so let's learn a little bit more about how God's commandments apply to us today. Now, if you've read your New Testament, you know that there are many statements in the New Testament teaching that we are not under law. Now, what's that mean? If Jesus says that the law is meant to be fulfilled and not just be gotten rid of and that even the least commandment matters? What does it mean to say that we are not under law in the first place, it means that our standing with God does not depend on our ability to keep the law we are declared righteous, apart from law, we are right with God through faith in Jesus, because he perfectly obey God's law on our behalf. And because of his perfect obedience, our salvation does not depend on our ability to keep the law perfectly. It also means that we are free from the laws, covenant curses, Jesus suffered God's curse against sin, and in doing so he canceled the record of debt that stood against us. 

The Bible says, God made him a curse, as it's written curse is everyone who hangs on a tree and because he took the curse, we don't have to. A third way in which we're not under law is that our power to live for God does not come from the law itself, but from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit writes God's law on our heart, and gives us the desire to keep the law and the ability to grow in our obedience, to keep God's law. 

So we don't depend on the law for the power to change our lives. It gives us directions, but the power comes from the Holy Spirit. Here's a fourth way in which we are not under law, the old rituals of the law are replaced the old covenant signs, which were pointing to Jesus and to the realities of the coming New Covenant. These signs give way to New Covenant reality in Jesus Christ. So those are four senses in which we are not under law. We are right with God through faith in Jesus and not through obedience to the law. We're free from the laws of Covenant curses against law breakers, were empowered by the Holy Spirit to live new lives, and the ritual elements of the old law are replaced by the reality. But having said all of that, having said that, we're not under law in those senses that are taught in the Bible, we are still called by God to live according to the moral law that he gives us. 

We uphold and fulfill the law, the apostle Paul was very clear that we're not under law in the sense, as we've just talked about, but he also said that we don't overthrow the law by this faith, he says, We hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. But do we then overthrow the law by this faith? No, by no means, on the contrary, we uphold the law. A little later Paul says in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, that's why Jesus came. So the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walked not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, it's in Jesus Christ, that the law is fulfilled, and as his life takes shape, and us by the Spirit, we more and more fulfill that law. Now, as we think about how old testament laws apply to us, and what they mean, for us, it's helpful to distinguish between three different kinds of Old Testament laws. This is kind of a rough and ready to vision, and there's overlaps and complexities at times. But nonetheless, these three types of Old Testament law are helpful to distinguish first ritual laws, rituals, about temple tabernacle, sacrifices, special days, foods you can and can't eat, and so on. These rituals were signs that pointed the head to Jesus Christ, or they were also signs that were picturing spiritual realities. 

And today, the literal practices are discontinued, because the things they pointed to have come. But studying these pictures, and these signs can still teach us today about Jesus and still picture some spiritual realities that we do need to live by. A second kind of Old Testament law is civil law. Now civil law are basically case laws that were there for governing the nation of Old Covenant Israel. And today, there's no country that is the holy nation in the sense that old covenant Israel was, the church is God's new holy nation scattered throughout all countries, but we can still learn many things that help us in our life together as church, and we can learn principles of governance, from the Old Testament civil laws. Now, there's also a third kind of law, which is extremely important, the moral law, God's rules for holy love towards God, and his rules for holy love towards our neighbor. And these apply in all times, and in all places today, these commands still direct us. So with those three kinds of law laid out ritual, civil and moral, let's consider each one in a little more detail, look at some examples, and see a little bit more about what Old Testament laws mean for us today. 

First of all, let's think about some of the ritual laws, the tabernacle and the design for it and the practices connected with it were given to Moses and then later on the temple that David collected materials for and that Solomon built and later another temple was rebuilt. All of this material about tabernacle, and temple have been fulfilled. Jesus tabernacled with us, literally, John one, verse 14, says the Word became flesh and tabernacle with us. In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and the temple were God's way of making his presence very real among his people, and especially the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies was the focus of God's presence among His people. Now that Jesus has come, Jesus is the focus. Jesus is also called Emmanuelle or God with us. And so he is the temple living among us. And he also makes us a temple for His Holy Spirit, as the scripture says, and that's how tabernacle and temple are fulfilled today, Jesus told a Samaritan woman that a time is coming and has come when they're not going to worship God on this mountain or on the mountain in Jerusalem. People will worship God in spirit and in truth. And that is the way that we are tabernacles in temples of worship to God. today. 

In the tabernacle and ritual system, there were priests, there were the high priests and the other priests who were offering sacrifices. But with the coming of Jesus, He is our only high priest. The book of Hebrews is extremely clear about that, that the old priesthood has given away to the eternal, perfect priesthood of Jesus Christ. But at the same time, all believers are priests. The priesthood of all believers is taught in the Bible. Even Old Testament Israel was chosen to be a holy priesthood, a nation of priests, and the New Testament speaks of us Christians, being a kingdom of priests. So we have just one High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. And then all of us who follow Jesus are to be preached in interceding for the world, in witnessing to others in offering ourselves to God. Now the priests offered sacrifices, and Jesus offered the sacrifice of himself. Jesus is called in the New Testament, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It also says, Jesus, our Passover, Lamb has been sacrifice. So he's the ultimate sacrifice, and no other sacrifices are necessary. All the ones in the Old Testament that were pointing to him, are no longer practiced anymore. 

Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice. And then we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. As it says in Romans chapter 12, or in the book of Hebrews, it speaks of offering the sacrifice of praise lips, that profess his name. And so we're still offering sacrifices, but not dead animals, but living humans, ourselves offered in sacrifice to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament, prescribed many special days, there's a long list of them in Leviticus 23. And some of these are explained and defined elsewhere to the Sabbath, every seven days, a time to rest from all work, the Passover, every year, remembering God's deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt, the feast of firstfruits, right at the end of the Passover, where they'd offer the very first elements of the harvest of God, the Feast of Weeks, which came seven weeks or 50 days after Passover. And this was also called Pentecost, and then the feast of trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles or of booths. These were all special days. And I can't get into detail on all these but let me give just a few hints. In the New Testament in Hebrews four, it says that we need to enter into God's eternal rest, and Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest. And we must seek to enter that rest by faith in Jesus Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath rest. 

And the New Testament says that we should no longer be requiring Sabbath of new converts and believers. Jesus is our Passover lamb. And Jesus gave bread and wine to His disciples on the Thursday night of the Passover, and said, This is my body and this is my blood and the Hebrew recommending that Thursday night. And that Friday were the same day the day starts with Thursday night, and then carries over into Friday. So he offered the bread and the wine and said, This is my body and this is my blood. And then on that day of Passover, he sacrificed himself when his body was nailed to the cross. The Feast, the first fruits landed on the first day of the week, and on that first day of the week, Jesus rose from the dead. First Corinthians 15 says Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. And later on the same chapter, First Corinthians 15. It says, each in his own order, Christ the first fruits, and then after that all those who are his at his coming, we're going to be raised all of us at is coming. And his resurrection is the first fruit so he fulfills that feast, first fruits, the Feast of Weeks Pentecost. 

We know from Acts chapter two, that on the day of Pentecost, the day where the completion of the harvest was to be celebrated. Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit after he had ascended to God's throne, and that Holy Spirit came on the church in power and in might and enriches and fulfillment. And I could go on about many other ways in which Jesus Christ has fulfilled these special days and feast obviously the Day of Atonement. He is our atonement, and he offered himself as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood, the Feast of Booths, they always had to remember that they had once been traveling from Egypt to the promised land. And as we studied the feast and boots, we remember the noodles So telling us that we're still pilgrims and strangers on our way to a better world. So these are ritual laws that are important because they point to Jesus Christ. They point to spiritual realities that are still there today. But we don't have to. And indeed, we should not try to carry out all of the literal details of these old testament rituals and feasts. Here are a few more examples. circumcision was a key sign of the Old Covenant. 

And Scripture says in the book of Colossians, that we have been circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him through baptism, in which we are also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God who raised him from the dead. So circumcision is no longer required under the new covenant. It's replaced by a bloodless ceremony of baptism. And it's a ceremony which applies to male and female equally, and so it's a better sign and more inclusive than circumcision. And it's not bloody, that's showing that Jesus sacrifice is the final shedding of blood studying However, what circumcision meant in the Old Testament can still help us because it speaks is putting off that old self. It's fixed, being marked as one of God's chosen, and one of those who is called by faith to serve Him. Another kind of Old Testament law are laws that were symbols of separation, that were laws of eating only certain animals, and then avoiding other animals and not being allowed to eat them. You were not allowed to consume blood because blood was a sign of sacrifice and of atonement and the life was in the blood. There were laws about no mixed fabrics. Those of us who were say a combo of cotton and polyester today,

would be violating those laws if we were still bound. By Old Testament ritual laws, there were laws against mixing crops together and having two different kinds of crops mixed together in the same field laws against breeding certain kinds of animals together that would produce produce sterile offspring, laws against yoking different kinds of animals and ox and a donkey together to pull a plow at the same time. These laws were symbols of separation, that God had called the people of Israel to be different, to be unlike the nations around it. And these various laws were given to cultivate this sense of separateness of being set apart by God for His special purposes. Still, today, Christians are to think of themselves as a people set apart, not any longer by keeping all of the ritual laws that will require the people of Israel, but nonetheless, to be a holy nation on the God. There were also symbols of purity, and wholeness. And so you had laws about yeast, or about leaven, and about getting rid of the old leaven every year, at the time of Passover. 

And it was a sign of getting rid of sin. There were these laws about mold and mildew in your house and how to get rid of it. And if you couldn't get rid of it, the necessity of destroying the entire building laws about diseases such as leprosy, and cleansing and uncleanness laws about various kinds of discharges that made you ceremonially unclean laws about what to do after childbirth, which had left to ceremonial unclean laws about who touches dead bodies, and what that means and how to be cleansed of that. And so you have all these laws, and they're picturing the importance of purity and wholeness. And the fact that in a fallen world where we're sinful and where we become diseased and unhealthy, we don't have the right to just walk right into God's presence because he's holy. He's separate from that. We can't just go up to God as unholy and broken people. But the good news of the gospel is, God comes to us. When Jesus comes and touches someone with a disease of leprosy. Jesus does not become unclean, the leper becomes clean. When a woman with a discharge of blood that she's had for years and years and been unable to get rid of, and has been ritually unclean because of it, as well as the health problems associated with it, she touches Jesus robe. Instead of making Jesus unclean, she's healed and she becomes clean. 

When Jesus touches the dead. He doesn't become ceremonially unclean, they become alive. And when Jesus mingles with people who are of mixed racial background, or sinful, it doesn't corrupt him, it wins them to the kingdom of God. And so these old testament pictures of separateness and purity and of our unworthiness to approach God are fulfilled when Jesus comes and approaches us as God among us and brings his life, his purity, his wholeness into our lives. And so the Old Testament rituals are no longer fulfilled. Because Jesus has come and has brought a new and better covenant. Now, when we read the New Testament, there are places where these ritual laws are explicitly repealed. I'm not just making up my own ideas and saying, Oh, yeah, some of these rituals, we shouldn't practice anymore. The Bible explicitly says that some of them do not apply anymore. Jesus himself says, Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not as hard but his stomach and is expelled. Thus he declared all foods clean. Jesus says that all foods could now be eaten because you're not polluted by what you take into your body, your real problem is your heart. And the food had just been a symbol. 

The Apostle Peter had a vision of various animals being let down from heaven in a sheet. And in that sheet was quite a few animals that were considered unclean, which a Jewish person under the old covenant would not be allowed to eat. And he was told, taken eat in that vision. And Peter said, No, I've never eaten anything that's unclean. And the voice came and said, what God has made clean, do not call common. So again, you have this notion of what had previously been unclean, was now clean. And the picture of those foods was given to Peter in order that he would go and associate with Gentiles and welcome them into the people of God, the time of separation of clean and unclean was over. And Gentiles were to be welcomed, on a large scale into the kingdom of God. And with the welcoming of the Gentiles, the food requirements were dropped for both Gentiles and for Jews. The apostle Paul said, you observe days and months and seasons and years, I'm afraid I may have labored over you in vain. He says, You don't seem to get it that with Jesus Christ, all those feasts and seasons have been fulfilled, and you should focus on Christ, not on the Old Testament signs and symbols. The Scripture speaks of it as the reality replacing ritual shadows, when somebody is walking around the corner of a building, you might see their shadow shortly before you see them. 

But once they arrive, your focus is on the person, not primarily on the shadow. Or if you look at an ultrasound of a little child, you may see some dim outlines and make out the child. And maybe that's the best picture you can get of the child at that particular point. But when the child is born, your main focus is on the living child, not on the old shadow. Hebrews says that the priesthood and the temple and all those other things, and the priests serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, the law has been a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true forms of these realities. Therefore, says the Apostle Paul, let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival, or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance, the reality literally, in the Greek, the body, belongs to Christ. These other rituals were the shadow Jesus is the real body, of which those other things were just the shadow that we knew Christ was approaching. So there are these varieties of rituals, the literal details are not binding on us anymore. And yet, it's profitable to read them because they're pointing to Jesus, and it's profitable to read them because they may be pointing to abiding spiritual principles. 

Take the notion of getting hitched. There's the law in Deuteronomy 22, verse 10, you shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. Now, that literal requirement is no longer in effect. And if somebody did get the notion, I'm not sure why they would. But if they wanted to plow with an ox and a donkey together, they wouldn't be violating God's commandments anymore. And most of us could say, well, I kind of got that law taken care of haven't plowed with an ox and donkey together lately. Good on that one. Well, that's not the main point of this law or the biting spiritual point. The apostle Paul says, Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers for what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness still today, at least in America, we sometimes speak of marriage as getting hitched. And we sometimes apply this word from second Corinthians six verse 14 being unequally yoked as being married to someone who does not share your commitment in Christ. And the Bible says, Don't do it. Don't get hitched with somebody who is an unbeliever because you can't have partnership with them. 

So don't enter into a marriage don't enter into a tight business and financial partnership with an unbeliever who may have totally different priorities and totally different standards than you do these Other principles, the ongoing principles that lie behind the command of don't hitch the ox and the donkey together, the literal requirement of an Old Testament ritual law or civil law might no longer be in effect, but that law may symbolically show us a moral principle that still applies today. The Bible speaks of us being the temple of the living God, as God said, I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. That's a quote from Leviticus 26. And still today, we're so glad that God is living and dwelling among us.

And then the Old Testament, call this one from the book of Isaiah, therefore, go out from their myths and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing, then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. So we're to think of ourselves as God's temple. We're to think of ourselves as a people set apart, which will void what is unclean, and unholy, not as defined by Old Testament rituals and details anymore, but nonetheless, as understood as walking in purity, before the face of God. So that's the first kind of Old Testament law ritual laws, signs, pointing to Christ or picturing spiritual realities. And today, the literal practices are discontinued. But studying those laws can still teach us much about Christ, and about our relationship to him and how to live for Him. A second kind of law, civil law case laws for governing, Old Covenant Israel, and today no country is the holy nation. But we can still learn valuable principles of governance for the church in some cases, and also for civil society. 

A few examples of civil case laws, yet safety laws among them, you shall build a parapet around your roof. Now, today, you might say, Well, I guess I'm violating God's law because I don't have a railing around my roof. Well, back in those days, they had flat roofs and that society in some parts of the world still might where they would have flat roofs where people would spend time on the roof might work up there or sleep up there or have little children playing up there. And you'd better have a railing around that roof so that somebody didn't take a nosedive off the roof and get hurt. There were laws about having a mean ox or a mean bull. And if an ox Gores somebody, and it had never done anything like that before, then you handle it one way, and you pay some restitution to the person, the injured or dead person's family. But if that bull was known to guard people in the past, and then it killed somebody, the owner, that bull was subject to being killed himself, because he should have restrained that bull or killed that bull because he knew it was a mean bull. Now, in many parts of the world, we don't have to worry about a mean bull anymore. My father still raises cattle that a lot of you listen to this aren't in the cattle business. But the principle still applies that we should be watching for the safety of others in the way that we build and the things that we do. And still today, many societies have various safety laws. 

There were property laws, how do you divide the land, how's the land given to the various tribes in the various clans within those tribes, there were laws about gleaning about leaving a certain amount of the grain behind and not purposely making sure you got everything leaving any grapes fell on the ground, just leave them on the ground. So the poor people could come in and pick up the leftovers and have a way through their own work to be able to supply their needs. The year of jubilee every 50 years, people who had been slaves to pay off their debts were set free and the debts were canceled, and their lands were returned to them ways in which the huge inequalities in society could be made a bit more equal again. And we may not have laws about gleaning or laws about Jubilee and various societies. But the concerns that lie behind those laws, how do we keep the poor from being totally ground into the depths? How do we keep a few people from gaining more and more till they have almost everything and others have almost nothing? 

These are biting issues that we need to pay attention to the civil case laws regarding the kingship and among other things that says, well, the king of Israel should not have too many horses. He shouldn't live in excessive luxury and have too much silver and gold. He shouldn't take many wives. He should study God's law, keep it know that he's not above it and enforce that law. 

Now, some kings such as David had too many wives Solomon had way way too many wives too many horses, too much silver and gold. And those laws were given to show what's wrong with the king and still today, we might not have the exact same law applied to our rulers, but do we really want rulers who have tons of women and hog all kinds of property for themselves? And rely too much on horses and military force. Or laws about damage control is another kind of civil case law. There are regulations for war, there's regulations for divorce and how to properly documented and how the woman who has been divorced is to be regarded, and so forth. There are laws regarding slavery. And some people read those laws as they see God was in favor of divorce, God was in favor of slavery, at least the Old Testament claimed he was, the Old Testament must not be believable. You've got to understand that these are civil case laws meant for governing a particular society and for limiting evil in a fallen situation. 

Jesus was asked about that divorce law that first appeared in the law of Moses, and it said, you know, anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce. And the Pharisees and others asked him does that mean divorce is fine? And Jesus says, No, haven't you read that from the beginning, God made them male and female, and brought them together as one flesh and what God has joined together, let no one put asunder. He said, Moses gave you that law about divorce because of the hardness of your hearts. So there were civil laws that were given the hard hearted people to restrain at least the worst abuses. The same happened with regard to slavery. Not every law about slavery in the Old Testament is a law about God's ideal for how human society ought to be. Its reining in the worst abuses of the institution of slavery. And still today, the purpose of civil government is not to create heaven on earth very often, it's more just to prevent hell on earth, and do some damage control and restrain some of our worst impulses and some of our worst institutions. Another example of civil case laws are those where you're deciding guilt and figuring out who's guilty. And we're told there should be at least two witnesses when anybody is accused of something. 

And still today, we want to make sure that we don't sentence innocent people so there better be strong evidence, and preferably witnesses who saw them in the act. They're also procedures for determining guilt kind of he said, she said, where a husband suspects that his wife might be guilty of adultery, but he can't prove it and nobody saw her. So the Old Testament says, Well, you mix up this certain kind of drink, and then she has to drink it. And if her belly swells, she's guilty. If her belly doesn't swell, she's not guilty. Now you don't say, okay, we need to figure out that exact potion. And then every time we get a, he said, she said court case. Today, we have the woman drink that, and we'll find out who's lying. No, that was a case law given by God in that setting for those people as a procedure for the people of Israel to use not as the abiding way to always determine guilt in cases of adultery, or rape.

Then another kind of civil case law was simply the penalties. And here's where civil law was kind of tied to ritual and moral law. Sometimes there were punishment for violating ritual and moral laws, as well as just for violating laws of the country. In some cases, you had to make restitution and make payment. In other cases, you might have to be exiled for certain offenses, and in other cases, you will be executed or killed. And so part of the civil law was the penalties that were applied. Now. We have a new holy nation under the new covenant, the holy nation of the Old Covenant was Israel, one people with one land but the holy nation of the New Covenant is the church, many people's living in many lands and the church doesn't govern any particular nation, any particular country. It's not the church's job to punish unchurched, evildoers, because the new holy nation is a different thing than the old holy nation was. The Church teaches God's laws to professing Christians, and the church rebuked sin. The church acts communicates kicks out of the church, people who commit blatant and serious sins, the church, excommunicate them, but it doesn't execute them. It only acts communicates them if they refuse to repent. 

Now, as we look at the Old Testament laws, that are particularly concerned with civil governance, how do we apply those well, different peoples different cultures, different areas are not bound by all the details of God's Old Covenant civil regulations that were meant for the Jewish nation in a mainly rural culture back then, during the era of the covenant era before Christ. The laws enforced in Israel didn't always Express God's created ideal as we've seen, that we're there to limit extreme evil and so we shouldn't expect every law given every civil law to be pointing out God's ideal for holy human conduct, the biblical principles that are given there should be studied and have been set in the past by some of the great leaders and statesman, to inform good government. And it's just foolish to completely ignore God's laws that were given as civil laws for governing that society. God is the one to judge all the nations, but the Church must judge its own, at least to some degree and deal with serious sins that occur among the people of God. Scripture says judgment begins with the house of God, we have to leave the judgment of some things to God himself, but the church does have to be a disciplined and holy community. So we've looked at ritual laws, we've looked at civil laws. 

Now, let's think about moral laws. And these are rules for holy love towards God and neighbor that apply in all times in places and today these commands still direct us here are some of the examples You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Jesus says that is the greatest commandment in all the law of God. The second greatest commandment is Love your neighbor as yourself. And those two commands says, Jesus dependent hang all the law and all the prophets. The 10 commandments are moral laws, you shall have no other gods before me, You shall not make for yourself an idol or an image, you should not miss us or take in vain the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, this one has changed somewhat, as I've already mentioned. And the implication of the Sabbath command is that we rest from our evil works, and that every day we rest in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and also that we don't work ourselves to death that we don't work others to death, and that we gather regularly with the people of God worship Him. And under the new covenant Christians have typically done that on the first day of the week to celebrate Jesus resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. At any rate, the fourth commandment in some ways about concerning the Sabbath is the most challenging of the 10 commandments to apply in its moral sense. 

If you go on Honor your father and your mother, you shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you should not give false testimony, you shall not covet. These are moral laws of God, that continue to apply for all peoples in all places. There are many other laws as well. You shall not live with a male as with a woman, it's an abomination. Now, how do you know that's not just a ritual law? Well, it occurs in a chapter, which has law after law about sexual immorality. And in the New Testament, it's very clear several times again, that God still opposes homosexuality. And when in doubt about a law, ask this, if it's an Old Testament law, does the New Testament repeat it? If the New Testament repeats it, and applies it in this very same way, it's still binding. If the New Testament repeals it, like it repealed the festivals, then you don't have to live by those laws anymore. Do not turn to mediums are necromancers people who try to get in touch with the spirit of the dead, don't try to get in touch with fortune tellers, and all of that do not seek them out. That's an abiding moral law, the New Testament is very clear that we shouldn't get into the occult, and mess around with the spirits of demons or try to contact the spirits of the dead. Sometimes it's hard to know for sure whether something is a moral law or primarily a ritual one. Here's an example You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead, or tattoo yourselves. 

Now, this is part of not doing things that the pagans do as part of their worship. Does that mean that it would always be wrong to get a tattoo? If your intention had nothing to do in your mind with paganism? Well, maybe leave that one to further prayer and thought, but the Bible, as a rule doesn't look very fondly on doing stuff to your body, that radically changes his appearance or inflict pain on it, because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. But again, this there are some laws. And this is just one example where it's a little bit tough to know whether God is giving an abiding command, no tattoos, or whether it's within its context, saying, Hey, this is what the nations around you are doing as part of their pagan worship and I don't want you to do it while they're doing it. Now, the Bible is very clear that we can't just ignore God's morality that he gives us. Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters or adulterers nor men and practice homosexuality, nor thieves nor the grading are drunkards nor revisers. nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God, and such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God. 

So there are things that characterize people who have no place in God's kingdom, things that are violations of God's law. But Christ washes and sanctifies and justifies, and he doesn't do it so that we can keep on wallowing in that stuff. Scripture makes that very clear. Love each other, but the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder you shall not steal yourself covet, and any other commandment are summed up in this word, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore Love is the fulfilling of the law.

So we have God's moral laws of love and the particulars of love. And God's moral law helps us to understand what love involves. And as we hear of God's moral law, what can it do for us? Well, one thing it can do is something that's not very inspiring or uplifting, it can tell us how rotten we are. God's law is a teacher of sin that can show us our sinfulness and our desperate need of a Savior and drive us towards Jesus. And that's why if pastors and evangelists no longer speak of God's law, after a while, you're going to have people who see no need for the gospel, who see no need for Jesus. Why would you go to the doctor, if you don't even understand that you're sick. And the law is one of the great teachers of sin, to help us understand our great need for God. The law cannot save us. It is not our means of self salvation. God's law cannot help us to earn God's favor. Only Jesus can earn God's favor for us. God's law can't help us to change ourselves. If we're told what to do, and then left to ourselves will actually become worse, in rebellion against what we know of God's law, only the Holy Spirit can change us inside and make us want to keep God's law and give us more power to live up to it. So the law does not save. I'll just say that again. 

Because this is a talk about law. God's law does not save, it cannot save it was never meant by God to save anybody. It is a teacher of sin, first of all, and then once we've been saved, it's a pattern of love. God's love shows thankful, saved, spirit filled believers, the pattern of love towards God and people. Love is not just a vague feeling. Love is not just some sort of fog bank with no definition. Love has a shape. Love has a pattern. And God's laws show us the shape and pattern and boundaries of love. And that's a wonderful and valuable purpose of God's laws to show us how God wants us to walk. Many people want to have God's guidance in their lives. Well, if you want God's guidance in your daily life, one of the most important places to start is just knowing God's commandments in the scripture and applying them to the way you live. Now, I want to mention a few demonic lies about laws, the kinds of lies that Satan makes up. Some of these you can deduce from what I've already said, but I just want to make them very clear. One Lie of the devil is legalism. legalism is the claim that law is your ladder to God. 

Just work on the law, work on obeying the laws, do enough good deeds, and you will earn your salvation. many religions are built on legalism, but it is deadly. It is a lie of the devil. a very different kind of lie, but still a lie of the devil is antinomianism. Anti means against nomis means loss of antinomianism means people are just against law, law is bad. Ignore the moral laws and do whatever you like. And early heretic named marcian tossed out the whole Old Testament and most of the New Testament and just took those passages that he thought were against law and kept those. But the mainstream church kept the Old Testament and kept the whole New Testament kept the whole word of God as God's Word to be listened to believed and obeyed because antinomianism is a lie of the devil.

ritualism is another lie of the devil, where he leads you to focus on ceremonial details on smells and bells and candles and robes and incense and all kinds of human rituals rather than on Christ or the Holy Spirit, or love. Now, this doesn't mean every ritual is always a bad thing. But if it is drawing attention away from Christ, or if it's being used as a means of judging people or judging other churches, then it's being used in a very demonic way. Jesus dispensed with most of the rituals of the Old Testament in his coming after fulfilling them so that we don't have to follow those do we really think then that humans could invent a whole bunch of their new rituals and that those are going to be a wonderful improvement ritualism which focuses on This, that and the other thing that churches do to keep people busy, or vestments, and so on, but detract from Christ, these are a deadly strategy of the devil. And then here's a fourth demonic lie about laws, civil religion, your country is God's holy nation. And so you try to force your fellow citizens to act like Christians even when they're not. And meanwhile, very often, you ignore church problems. There's no church discipline, you never put anybody out of the church, no matter how serious their sin, and yet you're trying to get laws passed to run your nation in a Christian manner. That's just a terrible mistake. 

Some people want to get the 10 commandments in courthouses and in public places that are sponsored by the government. And they don't even have the 10 commandments in their own home, or in their church and certainly not in their own hearts. Sad to say, less than half of evangelical Christians or people who claim to be evangelical, even know five of the 10 commandments. So even the people who claim to believe that the Bible is the Word of God, don't even know God's moral law, yet many of those same people might be lamenting the fact that their nation is not as godly as it ought to be, hey, if the church isn't godly, and if God's people aren't paying attention to those laws, don't run around trying to make your nation buy into some version of civil religion. So we've seen three kinds of Old Testament laws, the ritual, the civil and the moral laws. Now what I'd like to do is to take that distinction, and read one particular passage from the New Testament, which shows this in action as kind of a case study, or an example of how the Apostle Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit, took Old Testament laws and applied them to a particular situation. I want to look at first Corinthians chapter five. 

The chapter begins by saying it's actually reported there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated, even among patients, for a man has his father's wife is sleeping with his stepmother. And you are arrogant. Are you not rather tomorrow? Let him was done this be removed from among you. So Paul becomes aware of this situation of a member of the church, who claims to be a Christian, the stepmother probably doesn't claim to be a Christian. And so there's no word about what to do with her. But with this man who claims to be a Christian, Paul says that he is committing terrible immorality. Now, the Old Testament moral law says do not have sexual relations with your father's wife with your stepmother, in other words, and it says that quite a number of times, and Paul takes that moral law. And he says, even the pagans usually know that much. And don't let a Christian get away with violating that moral law, for the absent in body and present in spirit. And as if present, I've already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 

And when you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord there to put him out of the Christian Fellowship out of the protection of the Lord and His angels, let him know that he's in Satan's realm. And whatever happens to him happens to him that's destructive and painful. And the hope is that he will not have much fun out there, and that he will turn back to the Lord that his spirit may be saved, that he'll repent and come back to the Lord. That's the purpose of church discipline. That's the purpose of excommunicating somebody is so that they will miss so much what they found among God's people, that they will feel so desolate, when Satan's dominion is again, exercised over them that they'll want to come back and be among God's people and repent of their sin again.

Now, Paul says your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? cleanse out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old level, the level of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Now you see what Paul is doing here, he's taking ritual things related to the Passover feast, and applying their spiritual realities to Christians. No longer are Christians required to slaughter a lamb in a certain way or to splash its blood in a certain place, or to roast it and eat it in a certain setting. But that doesn't mean they should just say, oh, Passover lamb. Let's forget all about that Christ is our Passover lamb, and he's been sacrificed. Now, in the old Passover feast, they had to get rid of the old rather than the old bread, they'd always keep a lump of the old bread that had all already been leavened and had had some rise to it so they could put it into a new lump of dough. So that dough could rise to but every year Passover, they were to start over clean, with no leaven in the bread that they used for Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

Now, people were no longer required as Christians to keep that feast, literally. But they were required to get rid of the old leaven and be a brand new lump of bread. Some Christians still today kind of getting a dinner over whether there should be yeast and leaven in the bread they eat for communion or not, it doesn't matter. What does matter is the level of malice, the level of evil, that's the level you have to get rid of, and have the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. So you see, you're not required to have the lamb, you're not required to sweep your whole house to get rid of all yeast and Lavin and all of that any longer, but the spiritual principles of looking to Christ, the Lamb, and of getting rid of the malice and evil, that are a terrible leaven, those things still abide. You see how Paul did that. He took ritual laws from the old covenant and gave them their fuller spiritual meaning for new covenant people. He applied the deeper realities of the Old Covenant symbols. And then Paul says, I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people, not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters since then you need to go out of the world. There's the world is full of people like that. And I'm not telling you to leave the world Jesus had earlier prayed. 

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. So Paul isn't saying, I'll just judge the world for all its evils and try to get out of it. Just now I'm writing you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother, if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolatry revealer drunkard or swindler not even to eat with such a warm. So you can be friends, non Christian people, if your aim is to show them love, and to let them know more of Jesus Christ and to win them over to him. But it's dangerous to associate with somebody who calls himself a brother, and yet is involved in great and serious evil, whether it's sexual evil, sometimes young people hang around with the wrong crowd, who are calling themselves Christians who go to their same church, but are involved in sexual immorality, or are getting drunk every weekend. 

That's deadly. And it's important to avoid those who call themselves brother Christians or sister Christians, and yet are just wallowing in things that you know, are dead wrong. So the big concern isn't so much about who you happen to associate with from the world as long as you're living as a Christian, but don't band together with those who call themselves Christians and are corrupting and polluting the church. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church who try to judge God judges those outside, purge the evil person from among you. 

And purge the evil person is a direct quote from Deuteronomy in several different portions where it's telling them to execute the person who has committed various sins. Now, you see how Paul's applying he does not say to execute this person. excommunication from church the New Covenant holy nation replaces or excommunication from church, which is the new covenant holy nation replaces execution in the civil law of Israel, the Old Covenant, holy nation, and we don't spend all our time excommunicating our executing those who don't claim to be Christians in the first place, because they don't identify with the holy nation, as the people of God we may speak, steal God's Word to them and urge them to repent, we may warn them that nations that blatantly violate God's laws that slaughter the unborn, that wallow in sexual immorality that trample on the poor, that such nations are subject to the judgment of God. But we do not have the obligation to decide who gets executed or who gets excommunicated from that nation, as leaders in the church. And as fellow members in the church. 

Our obligation is to judge those within the church when they commit really serious and open sins, and leave it to God to judge those outside the church. So you see how in this passage, those three kinds of Old Testament laws were all being applied the ritual laws, signs pointing to Christ, our Passover lamb, signs that were pointing and picturing spiritual realities of getting rid of the leaven of malice and wickedness. And so we learn from those discontinued practices and they can still teach us. We learned from the civil laws of execution, except they're applied. in a different manner, through excommunication church discipline, we learned from the moral laws that you just can't sleep with anybody you want. And there are many other laws too, that still apply for today rules for holy love towards God, and neighbor that apply in all times, and in all places. And those commands still direct us today. 

So there is enormous benefit in studying God's holy law and laying it to heart How I love your law, is the testimony of the Psalms, it's sweeter than honey, it's more precious than gold. A true Christian should not spit upon God's laws are just ignore them or say they're not worth studying or reading anymore. The New Testament says neither uncertain, neither circumcision or uncircumcision counts for anything, but keeping the commandments of God. So ritual law may have been left behind. But God's commandments are still very important, and we want to apply them. 

We're not outside the law of God, but we're under the law of Christ, bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. If you really fulfill the Royal law, according to the Scripture, you should love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. Jesus wants us to fulfill the love of Christ, the moral law. And this again, doesn't happen by our own efforts. It's not our way to heaven, it is the way that we live as people already saved by Jesus sacrifice and indwelt by His Holy Spirit, the promise of the coming new covenant that was given in the Old Testament was I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts, the Holy Spirit lives in us making that loss sweet to us and precious to us. And Scripture says you are a letter from Christ written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. Jesus says simply, if you love me, you will keep my commandments, do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means, disappear from the law until everything is accomplished. 

Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. As people in Jesus Christ, we have righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees and the old teachers of the law. We have the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself credited to us. When we believe in Him by faith, we have a transformed heart, which surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, because the Spirit of Jesus comes to live within us. And we have the commands of God, which are precious to us, and which we are progressing more and more by God's grace in keeping so that we may fulfill the commands of Christ.

Last modified: Wednesday, September 1, 2021, 10:18 AM