Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Response To Wade Burleson's Claim That the OT Moral Law and Commands Are Obsolete

My Dear Brother in Christ, I feel like you are perched to jump off a very large Theological Cliff without a parachute. I am writing to encourage you to step back from the ledge. My friend. I'm not sure what you were thinking with some of the statements you made in your recent post "The Normal Practices of a New Covenant Church." ( While I also have concerns about legalistic, authoritarian leadership in the church, I believe you have chosen a poor example to illustrate your point and made some very unfortunate claims defaming the Old Testament.

You said: "The cultural custom of Old Covenant Israel was that the kings of Israel could have many wives and many concubines"

You used this as an example of the Old Covenant being invalid. But Deuteronomy 17 provides instruction for the Kings of Israel. Verse 17 declares:

"He shall NOT multiply wives for himself..."

Kings of Israel were forbidden from taking multiple wives. David's action was a sin and in direct defiance of God's law and the covenant directions given to the Kings of Israel.

I am even more concerned with some of the other comments you made about the Old Testament. You wrote that "Not one Hebraic civil, ceremonial or moral law is binding on a Christian"

But In the New Testament, Paul clearly upholds Old Covenant teaching and God’s Moral law when he instructs the church at Corinth to remove a member who was having sexual relations with his father's wife, breaking the command of Leviticus 18:18 and Deuteronomy 22:30. Fortunately, under the New Covenant, such a person does not have to be put to death (Lev 20:11). There is opportunity for church discipline followed by restoration and forgiveness under the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 2:7, Galatians 6:1). God's moral compass has not changed. His definition of sin has not changed. Here, we have a clear example of a church exercising discipline according to God's moral law. Note, that it is the church who disciplines, not an authoritarian leader. It is a congregational decision, which could be avoided if a brother or sister submitted to correction from any one person in private or even by two people in private before receiving correction from many believers. (Matthew 18:15-17)

You also wrote: "All the ceremonies, civil ordinances and legal commands of the Old Covenant way of life have now been made obsolete."

Your statement seems to be nullifying the Ten Commandments. Surely, that is not what you meant to say? While the law of love goes far beyond the commandments, it certainly does not nullify them. Here is Jesus' authoritative New Covenant word on this matter recorded in Matthew 5:

"Do not think that I came to *destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will be no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell."

Jesus said that He did not come to *destroy the Law and the Prophets. This word means to make void, to annul, to discard or to bring to nothing. You used the words “made obsolete,” which means the same thing. He did not come to do that. Jesus came to add to the teaching and bring us to a deeper level of understanding by giving us the rest of the story. I have included the full text because we see a classic type of Jewish reasoning, from the lesser to the greater. Jesus quotes the commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” or from a modern translation: “You shall not murder.” The commandment not to murder was the bare minimum. Under the New Covenant we must do more, not less. We should not even have anger or look down on our brother in disdain with haughty eyes or hate in our heart. It isn't enough not to murder. The thoughts and attitudes of our heart must also be right before God.  It all comes down to the need for a heart change. Hebrews 8:13 teaches us with regard to our salvation; "In speaking of a New Covenant, he makes the first one obsolete." But if we look back to verse 10 we learn what that new covenant is. "For this is the covenant I will make...I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts." God's moral laws and commandments are part of the New Covenant. What is being made obsolete is the old means of attaining forgiveness, not God's word. He goes on to promise that we can know God and be in a relationship with him and that He will be merciful and forgive us when we sin. The New Covenant provides salvation through Jesus Christ and a renewed heart with God's moral laws written on it. We have a better means of entering into a relationship with God under the New Covenant. The Law of Love does not negate the commandments, it exceeds them and puts them into our hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit who is our guide and counselor.

Theological Mudslinging against the Old Testament is never a good way to make one's point. Timothy grew up on the Old Testament Scriptures. Even during his adulthood, the New Testament was still under construction. I encourage you to really chew on these words about the Old Covenant from 2 Timothy 3:15-17:

"From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work."

This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, the Lord says, I will put my laws on their hearts and write them on their minds, and I will never again remember their sins and their lawless acts. Now where there is forgiveness of these there is no longer an offering for sin. -Hebrews 10:16-18, Jeremiah 31:33

This prophecy about the New Covenant was originally delivered by the prophet Jeremiah. Its original audience clearly understood that it referred to God's laws as delivered by Moses. The fact that it is quoted again in the New Testament shows that God's moral laws and commandments remain as the standard for Christian conduct and practice and they define what sin is. Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and resurrection, everything in the Old Covenant to do with sacrifice and atonement for sins and cleansing and purification that was the responsibility of the priests, is taken care of by Jesus our high priest. When we accept Him as our savior and are Baptized, we are washed clean, justified and forgiven forever. We no longer follow God's laws in order to obtain a right relationship with Him, we follow them in thanks and gratitude because He saved us and brought us into relationship. Jesus said: The one who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me. (John 14:21)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:24-25)

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