MUSINGS – January 03, 2019


Matthew 5:17-20
“Don’t ever think that I came to set aside Moses’ Teachings or the Prophets. I didn’t come to set them aside but to make them come true. I can guarantee this truth: Until the earth and the heavens disappear, neither a period nor a comma will disappear from Moses’ Teachings before everything has come true. So whoever sets aside any command that seems unimportant and teaches others to do the same will be unimportant in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches what the commands say will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

This sentence bothers me, whoever sets aside any command that seems unimportant and teaches others to do the same will be unimportant in the kingdom of heaven. As Christians we accept the Ten Commandments readily but by Jewish tradition the written and oral Torah contains 613 commands and Jesus added a few more for his followers.

Around 150 of the Mosaic laws concerned sacrifices or Temple duties. After the final destruction of the Temple, sacrifices have been suspended for the Jews. As most Christians accept Jesus death on the cross as the perfect and final sacrifice, we do not practice the sacrificial commandments either.

Also, most Christians do not follow the Jewish dietary laws either. Jesus himself didn’t strictly follow these laws and his disciples also lifted the ban on certain foods. (In mainstream Christianity, there is no restriction on kinds of animals that can be eaten. This practice stems from Peter’s vision (Acts 11:5-10*) of a sheet with animals, in which Saint Peter “sees a sheet containing animals of every description lowered from the sky.”)

I consulted thelogen Matthew Henry’s writings hoping for some quidence on this subject. He wrote,

Jesus did not make void, but make good, the ceremonial law, and manifested himself to be the Substance of all those shadows. [4.] To fill up the defects of it, and so to complete and perfect it. Thus the word plerosai properly signifies. If we consider the law as a vessel that had some water in it before, he did not come to pour out the water, but to fill the vessel up to the brim; or, as a picture that is first rough-drawn, displays some outlines only of the piece intended, which are afterwards filled up; so Christ made an improvement of the law and the prophets by his additions and explications. [5.] To carry on the same design; the Christian institutes are so far from thwarting and contradicting that which was the main design of the Jewish religion, that they promote it to the highest degree. The gospel is the time of reformation (Heb. ix. 10), not the repeal of the law, but the amendment of it, and, consequently, its establishment.

Having studied these things I was still troubled at ignoring some points of those 613 commands. I then remembered, Galatians 2:16
Yet, we know that people don’t receive God’s approval because of their own efforts to live according to a set of standards, but only by believing in Jesus Christ. So we also believed in Jesus Christ in order to receive God’s approval by faith in Christ and not because of our own efforts. People won’t receive God’s approval because of their own efforts to live according to a set of standards.”

My faith is based on my belief in Christ rather than trying to perfectly follow the law.

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All content (except quotations) © 2019 Thomas E. Williams

*Acts 11:5-10
“I was praying in the city of Joppa when I fell into a trance. I saw something like a large linen sheet being lowered by its four corners from the sky. The sheet came near me. I looked into the sheet very closely and saw tame animals, wild animals, reptiles, and birds. I also heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter! Kill these animals, and eat them.’ “But I answered, ‘I can’t do that, Lord! I’ve never put anything impure or unclean into my mouth.’ “A voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Don’t say that the things which God has made clean are impure.’ This happened three times. Then everything was pulled back into the sky again.

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