Homosexuality, Law- Old Testament, Old Testament, Sunday School

Law and Order: CVI (Christians Vs. Israel) ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 3-23-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 12 ~ Mar. 16-22
Deuteronomy 14-34, Psalm 91
Law and Order: CVI (Christians Vs. Israel)

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About a month ago we took a look at the Law in the Old Testament, and talked about why God gave the Law to Israel in the first place. Christians are often accused of “picking and choosing” which laws to obey (like the prohibitions against homosexuality) and which not to obey (laws about clothes, food, etc.), so, today, we’ll be talking about why Israel had to obey all the laws but Christians can’t and shouldn’t.

Deuteronomy 31:9-13
Did God consider His Law to be important? How can you tell from this and the rest of the book of Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and other passages we’ve read? Why did God consider His Law to be important?

All Laws Are Not Created Equal
While all laws are equally holy because they were all set forth by a holy God, there are different kinds of laws and different penalties for breaking various laws. The three main categories of Law are: civil, ceremonial, and moral.

Civil Law (22:1,8; 23:19; 24:5-6; 21:15-17; 14:28-29)
At this time in history, Israel had a unique form of civil government: theocracy. This meant that, while they had human leaders such as Moses, elders, and tribal leaders, God was their king and lawgiver. This included civil or societal “law and order” types of laws as well as inheritance laws, property regulations, taxes, etc. These laws were similar to the laws our local, state, and federal governments make for us today. All citizens of Israel were bound by them, and violation of these laws required punishment and/or restitution.

Christians and the Civil Law (Romans 13:1-2)
Which country are we citizens of? Are citizens of other nations bound by U.S. law (in their own nations)? Are we, living in the U.S., bound by the laws of other nations? This is why Christians are not bound by OT Israel’s civil laws, and it is not a problem for us to wear clothes made of two types of fabric, or build houses without parapets around the roofs (unless our own government decides to make these things law). Those laws were for the citizens of that nation at that time in history. We are bound by our city, parish, state, and federal laws at this time in our history.

After Christ’s ascension, the gospel was opened up to people of all nations and God’s people –Christians – began to spread all over the earth. We are no longer under a theocracy, but various forms of government in various nations. This is why Romans 13 tells us to obey those in authority over us, not to obey OT civil law. We are to obey the laws of our own country as long as they do not conflict with anything God has stated in His word.

Ceremonial Law (16:1-17; 26:1-2)
The ceremonial laws mostly had to do with making sacrifices, feasts, “unclean” laws, and who could or could not serve in God’s house. Again, all of these laws applied to Old Testament Israelite Jews (many of them also applied to sojourners in Israel, especially those who wanted to embrace Judaism). They did not apply to other religions, other nations, or non-Israelites outside of Israel. All of these laws, regulations, and practices pointed to the coming of the Messiah, who would fulfill them. Ceremonial law was always intended to be temporary and limited.

Christians and the Ceremonial Law (Hebrews 10:1, 11-14)
Christians are not OT Jews under the Mosaic Covenant. We are NT Christians under the covenant of grace (which is also why the blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience in Deut. 28 do not apply to us). All of the ceremonies, sacrifices, even the temple itself, were a picture and foreshadow of what was to come: Christ. Because Christ was the perfect, once for all, sacrifice for our sin, we no longer need to make sacrifices. If we did, it would almost be like preferring to read the menu than actually eat the steak, or preferring to stand out in the theater lobby looking at movie posters instead of going in and watching the movie.

Actually, it would be a slap in God’s face for Christians to go back to the OT ceremonial laws and ways of worship because it would be like saying, “I prefer the imperfect blood of bulls and goats covering my sin to the perfect sacrifice of Your precious Son which can take away my sin.”

Moral Law (Exodus 20:1-17; Leviticus 11:45, Romans 2:14-15)
The moral portion of the law covers behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes that are intrinsically right or wrong: lying, murder, coveting, adultery, helping the disadvantaged, etc. Because God is good and holy, His people are to portray His goodness and holiness to a watching world. We constantly see God telling Israel, “Be holy for I am holy.” The moral laws reflect the nature and character of God. God is truth, so do not lie. God is loving, so do not hate. God is faithful, so do not be unfaithful. God is generous and giving, so do not steal.

Moral Law is “transcendent,” which means that it applied even before it was codified (Remember when Cain killed Abel? Murder was still wrong then even though the Law would not be given until Exodus 20.), and will continue to apply until Christ returns. Moral Law applies to all people everywhere. God says this Law is written on our hearts; we know basic right from wrong by our consciences. As we discussed last week, the first and highest moral law was to love God only, and love Him above all else. When God holds first place in a person’s life, obedience to His moral law is a natural overflow of the heart.

Christians and the Moral Law (1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 2:4-6)
While Christians cannot and should not obey the OT ceremonial or civil laws, we are to obey the moral laws, most of which are restated somewhere in the NT. Often, Jesus reminds us that God is not after behavior modification, rather, He’s after our hearts. It’s not enough to restrain yourself from murdering someone; Jesus says to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. It’s not enough to refrain from adultery; Jesus tells husbands to love their wives to the point of laying down their lives for them and wives to respect and submit to their husbands. This kind of selfless love for God and others was always the intent behind the OT moral laws. It becomes clearer in the NT through the teaching and sacrificial example of Jesus. We follow His example of love for God, obedience to God, laying down His life for others, and serving others.

 

Jesus and the Law (Matthew 5:17-18)
Jesus Himself said that He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. He did this by perfectly obeying the civil, ceremonial, and moral law. He further fulfilled the ceremonial law by concluding it. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” it was. The final sacrifice had been made, once for all. When Jesus died, the veil of the temple that separated people from the Holy of Holies—the very presence of God—was split in two, signifying that, through the final sacrifice, Jesus, we may now enter into God’s presence and be reconciled to Him.

 

Additional Resource:
The Gospel by Numbers by Ligon Duncan at the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference (This is one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard. I encourage everyone to take the time to listen to it.)

Old Testament, Sunday School, Worship

Why the Law? ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 2-22-14

sunday schoolThese are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 8 ~ Feb. 16-22
Leviticus 11-27
Why the Law?

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 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight.
Psalm 119:18, 97,174

When David wrote those words, his Bible consisted mainly of the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy), the majority of which is law. Did you “behold wondrous things out of,” “love,” and “delight in” your reading of Leviticus? Why do you think God gave Israel the Law? Are Christians supposed to be obeying all these laws? If not, why is the book of Leviticus in the Bible today? While Christians are no longer bound by many of the laws of the OT the Law does show us some pretty amazing things.

 Primary Reasons for the Law

There are three types of law given in the OT:

Ceremonial (sacrifices, feasts, dietary, “daily living”, etc. laws)
Civil (“eye for an eye”, inheritance, property, etc., laws, similar to our local, state, and federal laws)
Moral (adultery, murder, lying, etc.)

Even though Christians are no longer required to keep the ceremonial and civil laws (we are still to obey the moral laws—we’ll get into the “why?” of that in another lesson), we can learn a great deal from them about the nature and character of God and His desires for His people.

For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy… For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Leviticus 11:44a,45

The Law showed Israel they were a distinct people, set apart from other nations. (2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Peter 2:9-10)
They were to be separate and different in all their ways. They were not to be like idolatrous nations in any way, and the things they ate, wore, even the way they cut their hair reflected this. As Christians, God’s grace has saved us and made us into completely new creatures in Christ. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;” Do the places we go, the things we say, the things we post on Facebook, the way we act, reflect this?

The Law demonstrates that God is holy. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
God is higher than and set apart from His people. God’s ways are not man’s ways, they are higher, which is why they are often confusing to us and hard to understand. God’s laws and His setting apart of Israel to follow His laws reflected His “otherness” and “set apart-ness.”

The Law shows that people must be holy in order to commune with a holy God (Psalm 24:3-4, Hebrews 9:22)
The cleanliness/unclean laws show that no one can have a right relationship with God unless God first makes him clean. If an Israelite became unclean he could only be made clean and restored to God through the sacrifice or offering God provided for him. We cannot make ourselves clean. It can only be done by God through the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”.

The Law shows us it can’t save us. (Galatians 3:24, Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:9-20, Hebrews 10:1-18)
Perhaps the greatest thing the Law did for Israel (and for us) was to show them the futility of striving to keep the Law. Not that they should give up on obeying the Law (which is what they often did), but that they needed something greater than the Law to save them since they were utter failures at keeping it. The ease of breaking the laws -even unintentionally- every time they turned around shows the impossibility of keeping the Law perfectly, the extent to which sin taints every move we make, and our desperate need for God’s mercy and forgiveness, which came in the form of a Savior who would make the perfect sacrifice once for all. The Law pointed Israel and us to Jesus.

The Law showed God’s sovereignty over and care for every aspect of life (Matthew 10:29-31 1 Corinthians 10:31)
The laws governed every aspect of life from eating and drinking to illness to “that time of the month,” showing that God was to have dominion over, and be remembered, glorified, and served in, even the smallest parts of an Israelite’s life, just as in the Christian’s life today. We are to do everything His way for His glory. It also shows His attention to detail and that He is concerned about everything about us. Nothing is too small for God, and nothing gets by Him.

The Law provided a way for people to express honor to God. (John 14:15, Colossians 3:16)
While the “do/don’t do this or that” laws honor God by testifying to His holiness, righteousness, and judgment, the feasts testify to God’s provision, benevolence, mercy, forgiveness, salvation, goodness, grace, and rest. The laws allowed the people to show their honor for God through obedience. The feasts gave the people the opportunity to show their honor for God through worship, celebration, and thanksgiving. We have this same opportunity every Sunday!

The Law was a testimony to other nations about God (1 Kings 8:59-61).
God’s ways were not the ways of the false gods of the nations surrounding Israel. His Law was to cleanse and protect the people so they could enjoy fellowship with Him. The worship of false gods was strictly to appease the idols themselves. The intrinsic nature of the laws themselves and Israel’s keeping of them were a testimony to the uniqueness, holiness and glory of God to all the surrounding pagan nations. “This God is different from all the others,” they said, “This is the one true God.” In the same way, our obedience to God shows how different He is from the world’s way of doing things.

 

 

Secondary Reasons for the Law

Most of the laws had secondary, practical reasons behind them, showing us that God doesn’t just care about our spiritual state, but our physical well being as well.

Law and Order
Every society has to have a way of maintaining law and order, protecting people and their stuff, and carrying out justice. Property, inheritance, and other civil and criminal laws protected the personal rights of Israelite citizens. God’s laws about restitution and punishment of criminals show His wisdom and that He is just.

Health
Rules about which animals to eat could have served to prevent food-borne diseases, such as trichinosis, which comes from pork. The multiple laws about quarantining those with leprosy helped stop its spread to others. Recently, scientists have discovered health benefits to circumcision. We know God is a healer, and sometimes He does this in the form of prevention.

Care and Safety Net
God made sure that widows, orphans, and the disabled were cared for and not taken advantage of. His laws showed Israel how to care for the poor and make sure no one went without provision.

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:23-26

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