Even though this study is a bit long, it is well worth your time and study. It will deepen your knowledge of the Bible and the plan of God among His people and the world.
MANY PEOPLE MAY NOT BE AWARE THAT CHRISTIANITY HAS A LONG, CONTINUING PROBLEM IN HOW TO LOOK AT AND UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE, BUT THEY DO. I should say right up front that I believe that Christianity has it RIGHT about the basics of JESUS’ life: He was born of a virgin, He lived a sinless life, He proclaimed the Gospel and taught His disciples to do the same, and then He was crucified under Pontious Pilate, rose again on the third day, ascended up into heaven, and then sent back the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and as a result, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit are for all believers today.
Those things we have RIGHT, but the problem comes with our mainstream view of the Bible as a whole, the relationship between the Old and New Testament, and even about the relationship between the Law and the Gospel. Different denominations have their own views and ideas about each of these, but how many of these “views” actually reflect the Bible as a whole? How many of these “views” are man-made, and how many can actually be found in the Bible?
I can remember listening to a well-known, popular TV minister 40+ years ago as he talked about God’s law as being “legalism,” “bondage,” and as a “curse.” He even thanked God for delivering us from the law. But at that moment, God checked my spirit, and told me that what I had heard was wrong. I then asked myself the question, “What’s his hang up with God’s law?” Since then, this erroneous attitude of his and other ministers (in churches and on TV) and evangelists in regard to God’s Word has flooded the mainstream American church, and we are now feeling the results of what has been reaped in American society (Did you actually believe the world wasn’t also listening?).
For those who don’t know me, I grew up in a small Pentecostal Church of God congregation until I was twelve, and then my parents changed over to the Assemblies of God. I have literally heard thousands upon thousands of sermons during my lifetime, but when it comes to God’s laws, and the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, the evidence of Scripture does not support the traditional Christian view. In fact, when hearing someone speaking against God’s Law, or the Old Testament as a whole, I really wonder if they’ve ever taken the time to actually read it.
CHRISTIANITY’S FALSE PRESS
There’s many things that Christians claim about God’s law and commandments, as well as the Old Testament, which I find no evidence to support. In fact, there are many traditions taught in the church which have no biblical basis. For example, that the fruit Adam and Eve ate which caused their fall was an apple (even though the fruit is never identified in the Bible), or that only two kinds of every animal went into the ark (actually two pairs of the unclean animals went into the ark, but seven pairs of the clean animals went into it), or that there were three kings who came to see Jesus as an infant at His birth in the manger (even though the New Testament calls them “wisemen,” not kings, and they came to the “house,” not the manger, to see the “young child,” not the infant).
This is why Christians need to start studying the Scriptures for themselves, instead of only relying on someone else to tell you what it says. How else are we to know when we are being taught “a man-made tradition,” as opposed to what is actually taught in the Bible. And after studying the Law and the Old Testament now for several years, and also listening to many ministers and TV evangelists, I often wonder, “What Law are you reading?”
For example, they say that God gave the Law to prove what horrible sinners we are, but I don’t see that in the Old Testament at all. What I do see is God wanting to bless us, but our desire to rebel keeps getting in the way. For example, check out this passage in Deuteronomy:
O that there were such an HEART in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments ALWAYS, that it might be WELL with them, and with their children FOREVER! (Deuteronomy 5:29)
Can you hear God’s broken heart here? Why is it breaking? Because He wants to bless us, He wants things to go well for us, but the thing that keeps getting in the way of us being blessed by Him is the condition of our hearts. Our HEARTS – that’s the problem – NOT the commandments!
Where does it say in here that God gave us these commandments to show us what miserable, horrible sinners we are? Where does it say that the ONLY way we can keep these commandments is if we are “PERFECT“? Again, when one reads through God’s law, as well as the whole Old Testament, you will not find these attitudes anywhere. And so many of the problems we Christians have regarding God’s law really comes down to what people have taught us about it and how we’ve been taught to interpret and understand our own Bible.
MYTH #1: YOU HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO OBEY THE LAW
The first myth that Christians teach about God’s Law is that you have to be morally perfect to keep it, but this isn’t true; you just have to be obedient. For example, did you know that in the Law itself, there is evidence that God DID NOT INTEND for people to be morally perfect to obey His commandments? I mean, think about this, if we have to be morally perfect to keep God’s law, then why does He allow for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)? If we have to be morally perfect to keep His commandments, then why does God set up the cities of refuge where people can go if they accidentally kill someone, and not suffer any retribution for what they have done (Numbers 35:6-34; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; 19:1-13)? If we have to be morally perfect to keep His laws, then why does God give the children of Israel “a make-up day” 30 days after Passover, if they can’t observe it on time (Numbers 9:6-14)? And, of course, the biggest clue that God did not intend for people to be morally perfect to keep His commandments is the whole sacrificial system. It’s very existence is textual proof that God was fully aware that the people He was giving these commands to were NOT morally perfect people, and the inclusion of these elements only prove that He made allowances for their moral imperfections. In fact, NO WHERE in the law or, even, the whole Old Testament does God EVER SAY that obedience to these commandments would make one perfect, NO WHERE!
Keeping the commandments, in fact, does NOT make us perfect – just OBEDIENT! And OBEDIENCE to the commandments does NOT result in us dying and going to heaven (another myth), but in being BLESSED here on earth by God! (check out Deuteronomy 28:1-14 for a sample of the promised blessings for obedience.) I am not saying that heaven is a myth, only the idea that keeping the commandments will result in God having to take people to heaven. None of the blessings of God deal with what happens to us after we die; they only deal with what happens to us here on earth during our lifetime.
And, of course, OBEDIENCE to anything doesn’t just happen. It must be LEARNED and PRACTICED, and when we fall, we get up and continue to LEARN and to PRACTICE it. This is true of ANYTHING that one sets out to learn. MASTERY OF ANYTHING takes time learning it, practicing it, and patience as we continue to learn and to practice it. So why do we view our obedience to God’s laws and commandments differently than we do anything else? Because that’s how we’ve been taught to view them in the church. But unfortunately how we’ve been taught to view them is NOT what we see taught in the Old Testament ANYWHERE! So ask yourself, on what are people basing this erroneous view that we have been taught regarding God’s Law?
Also, God’s desire here is that His people would “keep ALL [His] commandments ALWAYS,” so ask yourself, “Why would He send Jesus to earth to do away with the very thing He wants His people to keep ‘ALWAYS’?” Why would Jesus die to do away with the Word of God?” Again, this idea just doesn’t make any sense when we actually spend time reading and studying the Law and the rest of the Old Testament.
MYTH #2: IN THE OLD TESTAMENT PEOPLE WERE SAVED BY THE LAW.
Another common myth that Christians teach is that in the Old Testament, people were saved by the Law. This is also not true. If God’s purpose in giving the law was for the purpose of salvation, He would have given it to them while they were still slaves in Egypt, and told them, that if they could keep these commandments, then He would deliver them from slavery, BUT that is NOT what He did. Instead, He delivered (or “saved”) His people from slavery FIRST, and THEN He led them to Mt. Sinai where He gave them His commandments. In the footnote of Exodus 20:1-17 of the Apologetics Study Bible, it states the following:
God and Moses perceived obedience to the laws, NOT AS A WAY OR PRECONDITION TO SALVATION, but as a GRATEFUL RESPONSE of those who had ALREADY BEEN SAVED. God did not reveal the law to the Israelites in Egypt and then tell them that as soon as they had measured up to this standard He would rescue them. On the contrary, BY GRACE ALONE, THROUGH FAITH they crossed the Red Sea to freedom. All that was required was belief in God’s promise that He would hold up the walls of water on either side and see them safely through to the other shore.
The Decalogue (10 Commandments) begins, not with the first commandment, but with a preamble: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” (v.2; Dt. 5:6). Obedience to the Decalogue or any other law has NEVER BEEN INTENDED AS A WAY OF SALVATION BUT AS THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO SALVATION ALREADY RECEIVED. (115; Emphasis Mine)
So as we can see, people in the Old Testament WERE NOT SAVED by the keeping of the law (contrary to what the majority of Christians often say or teach), but the Law was their God-given RESPONSE to His salvation. Consequently, the mainstream Christian belief that the law was used for salvation purposes in the Old Testament is not at all true.
MYTH #3: YOU HAVE TO OBEY ALL OF THE LAW, BECAUSE IF YOU GET ONE WRONG, THEN YOU’VE BROKEN THEM ALL.
This third myth about the Law is based on an erroneous understanding and misapplication of James 2:10: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” On the surface, this seems to support what traditional, mainstream Christianity teaches, but when you place the quote back into its original context, we discover a very different story.
James wrote this statement to ENCOURAGE MORE OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, NOT LESS, AND DEFINITELY NOT TO PROVE THAT THE LAW COULD NOT BE KEPT. James here is arguing that the PREFERENCE that these Jewish believers are showing to the rich believers over that of the POOR believers is a VIOLATION OF THE LAW; therefore, in order to KEEP THE LAW, they need to treat ALL people EQUALLY in their meetings (James 2:1-9). Obviously, if James was trying to get them to OBEY GOD’S LAW, then he isn’t using it to say that the Law can’t be kept; however, this statement of James 2:10, along with what he is trying to accomplish by using it, also proves that James did NOT believe that the Law ended at the cross, nor did he believe that God’s Law could NOT be kept.
Christians have traditionally used this same statement in James 2:10 to say the EXACT OPPOSITE of what James is saying. He used it to ENCOURAGE OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, but Christianity has turned it around and uses it to DISCOURAGE OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, and even use it to try and argue that IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO KEEP GOD’S COMMANDMENTS. This clearly demonstrates the habit of many people (Christians and non-Christians alike) – and this is one of many examples – of people taking things out of CONTEXT in order to back up and support their own denominational beliefs or personal views, such as, in this case, that CHRISTIANS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO OBEY GOD’S LAW, which was clearly NOT the point that James was making here.
Furthermore, I would argue that many Christians and TV ministers VIOLATE this same teaching of James by themselves showing PREFERENCE to the rich evangelists and TV ministers who they support and invite to their churches, as well as to those within their congregations who give more in their tithing, than they do to those poor ministers, evangelists and believers within their congregations. I have even heard more than one TV minister/evangelist say that “unless you have money, a lot of money, you cannot help anyone.” How sad!
PROBLEMS THAT CAUSE THESE MYTHS AND MISINTERPRETATIONS
The following are three of the main problems that lie at the root of these continuing myths, misinterpretations and misunderstandings of God’s Word.
ONE MAIN PROBLEM – THE REMOVAL OF THE NEW TESTAMENT FROM ITS INTENDED CONTEXT
One main reason for Christianity’s traditional misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and misapplication of the Bible is because they remove the New Testament from its intended context, the Old Testament. It is quite clear from the numerous quotes, references, and allusions to the Old Testament Scriptures found in the New Testament that the foundation, framework and context of properly understanding it [the New Testament] is the Old Testament. But rather than viewing and understanding the New Testament from the perspective of the Old Testament, Christianity divides and separates the two Testaments, and erroneously teaches that the New Testament, in fact, REPLACES the Old Testament.
And not only has the New Testament REPLACED the Old Testament, they say, but they teach that the two Testaments are, in fact, “two entirely different Divine Programs,” none of which is true. The New Testament further molds, shapes, modifies and develops parts of things in the Old Testament, but IT DOES NOT REPLACE the Old Testament. Nor has all of the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament been fulfilled. There are 800 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. Jesus fulfilled 300 of them in His first coming, and He will fulfill the other 500 prophecies in His second coming and during His 1,000 year reign on earth (called “the Millennial reign”). So how can Christians say that the Old Testament, or even the Law, has been fulfilled when, in fact, there’s a great deal yet that has NOT been fulfilled?
ANOTHER MAIN PROBLEM: VIEWING THE BIBLE THROUGH THE LENS OF RELIGION, RATHER THAN THE LENS OF A KINGDOM
Traditionally, another problem within Christianity has been their continual view of God, the Bible, the Gospel, and the Church through the lens of RELIGION and not through the lens God intended – a KINGDOM. For example, throughout the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, we see the foundation and development of God’s Kingdom here on earth. The giving of the law was part of God establishing His Kingdom within the lives of the people He had “saved” and “redeemed” from their slavery in Egypt. They were supposed to be His “role model nation,” so that other nations around them would see the great blessing and intimacy they enjoyed with God, and that they too would want to become part of God’s Kingdom (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).
Obviously, then, God’s laws and commandments were NOT intended ONLY for the Jewish people, but for all of humanity. Of course, the problem we see in the Old Testament is that the sin nature took control of what was to be God’s “role model KINGDOM” and made it into a RELIGION, where people could take control and decide for themselves what was right and wrong, believing, in fact, that they could mix their RELIGION with the things the other RELIGIONS around them believed and practiced. This mixture of RELIGIONS, of course, led to the continuing battle against idolatry, violence and sexual practices that were clearly forbidden by God.
And even during the Babylonian captivity when Israel began to be obedient to the commandments, and NOT engage in these same vile practices, the belief and view of the Law as a RELIGION continued, so that by the first century, A.D., the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc., had fully developed their RELIGIOUS view of what God, the Torah, Israel and the land was all about. However, Jesus was not about endorsing this RELIGIOUS view of God and His KINGDOM. Instead, He wanted to return people back to a KINGDOM view of things, rather than a RELIGIOUS view. For example, Jesus proclaimed NOT the “RELIGION OF GOD,” but “THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” For example, in Mark 1:14-15,
Now after that John was put into prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the KINGDOM OF GOD is at hand: REPENT ye, and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.
Clearly here, Jesus identifies the Gospel message as about “the KINGDOM OF GOD,” and our response to this message is that we are to REPENT and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL. This message stirred up the people of Israel and put Jesus into direct conflict numerous times with both the RELIGIOUS and POLITICAL leaders of His day. Why? Because the concept of KINGDOM and RELIGION are in direct opposition to one another, and the preaching of any other KINGDOM than the KINGDOM (or EMPIRE) of ROME was considered by ROME to be an act of treason.
Although Jesus and His early disciples preached the KINGDOM message, in spite of the persecution, historical Christianity though, from the 2nd century, A.D. onward, began to move away from KINGDOM and back into RELIGION, and since the mid-to-late 2nd century, A.D., it has continued to view Jesus, the Gospel, the Church, and the New Testament as a RELIGION, which came to be called “Christianity,” and NOT from the perspective of an actual KINGDOM.
For example, in a RELIGION, people choose what they want to believe and what they don’t want to believe, what is right and what is wrong. We see in the various denominations them deciding what parts of the Bible is for today and what parts aren’t, what they believe is appropriate worship, attire, instruments, etc., in the church, and what’s NOT. However, in contrast to this, in a KINGDOM, the one who decides what is right and wrong, what is appropriate or not appropriate, or what parts of the Bible is for today and what isn’t is NOT the people, but the KING (God). The people in the KINGDOM are to do what the KING says to do, NOT create their own version of what they feel is more comfortable for them to do. And according to Jesus, what part of the Law or the Prophets has God, in fact, “annulled” or “done away with”? NOTHING.
Think NOT that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS [AWAY], one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18)
When will any part of the law or the prophets, i.e., the Old Testament, pass away or be deleted? Not until HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS AWAY. Why? Because these were the two witnesses who God called to witness His covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai, and until these two witnesses pass away, God CANNOT REMOVE OR DELETE any part of His covenant. Consequently, when Christians teach that the Law is not for today, they are in direct contradiction to what the Bible actually teaches, since it was not God’s law, but our sins, the penalty of our sins, and the law of sin and death that was nailed to the cross of Christ, NOT God’s law and commandments.
ANOTHER MAIN PROBLEM: CHRISTIANS IGNORING THE PROPHECIES CONCERNING THE COMING KINGDOM
A third problem with the way Christians view the Bible, specifically God’s law, is that they look back to the cross, which THEY SHOULD DO, but they FAIL TO LOOK AHEAD to the coming Millennial reign of Christ, and to adopt doctrines repeatedly taught in the Bible that are CONSISTENT between these two points in time. If they would study the Old Testament, they would discover that it actually has more to say about the coming rule and reign of Christ than the New Testament.
For example, they would learn that the New Testament is NOT the last or final covenant that God is planning on making with humanity. There’s at least one, maybe two, more covenants prophesied by God that He is going to make with Israel and, of course, with each covenant, there comes more Bible. Consequently, the Bible is done as far as we’ve received from God so far, but in reference to God’s word for humanity over all, that is up until the time of the New Heavens and the New Earth (Isaiah 66:22; Matthew 5:18; Revelation 21-22), there’s more Bible yet to come. For example, the next covenant will be made with Israel when Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom here on earth for 1,000 years.
CORRECTIONS CHRISTIANITY NEEDS TO MAKE
So based on this first part of the study, then, there are certain changes and corrections that Christianity needs to make in order to begin to properly understand and view the Bible as a whole. For example, we need to —
- STOP taking verses and passages out of CONTEXT, simply to satisfy our own denominational views and to begin to consistently follow the RULES AND GUIDELINES OF HERMENEUTICS on how the Bible should be interpreted and understood;
- STOP viewing the Old Testament and New Testament as separate “Divine Programs,” but to view the New Testament from the foundation, framework, and context of the Old Testament as God intended, since after all, He gave us the Old Testament BEFORE He gave us the New Testament; and
- STOP viewing God, Jesus, the Gospel, the Church and the Bible as a whole through the lens of RELIGION, and begin to look at things through the lens and perspective of a KINGDOM, which is an entity that’s political, social, cultural, historical, and spiritual with its own worldview and values and belief system that’s been given to us by God Himself. We are NOT to adopt the world’s system, but God’s.
Now if we could begin to do these three things, it would greatly help to reduce the amount of division, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, myths, and error that we see within the Christian church. For example, when the United States is under attack, the conflicts and divisions among Americans fall to the wayside and we join together in unity to fight our “common enemy.” In the same line of thinking, Christians are divided by their church and denominational doctrines and practices, but imagine what would happen if we began to focus on us being part of God’s KINGDOM, and what teachings and practices of God’s Kingdom that we see REPEATEDLY TAUGHT from Genesis to Revelation. Many of our so-called divisions and disagreements would likewise fall to the wayside. After all, “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, a thing shall be established.”
Now in the second part of this three-part series, I want to look at the restoration of Israel and the coming covenant that God is going to make with the people and nation of Israel during Christ’s (or Messiah’s) Millennial reign, and how all of this fits together with the gospel of the Kingdom taught by Jesus and His early disciples.