Thursday, September 11, 2014

The "Law" of First-Century Christianity, Part 2

In Part 1, I said that "God did not give us a bunch of rules. But we have such a need to have them, like children, we find the rules anyway...".

A reader wondered if that doesn't make Christianity a "lawless Religion". Here's my response:

[Gal 3:24] So that the law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ....

The law of Moses has taught us the basic concepts of righteousness: don't murder; don't steal; don't lie; respect your parents; be humane to animals; bathe regularly; honor YHWH only as God, not this god or that goddess; keep sexually/maritally pure; bathe regularly; etc.

Concerning the "lawless"-ness of Christianity: the laws are "written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but in tablets that are hearts of flesh" (2 Cor 3:3b).

I once served on a grand jury, and the District Attorney, in giving us instructions, told us that if we ever had a question or a doubt about the process, to "do the right thing". Our hearts, having been tutored all our lives by rules/regulations/guidance from our parents/peers, "know" what's right and wrong (in general), without having to resort to a list of specific rules/regulations.

But as concerns specific rules/regulations....

[Col 2:20] If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances, [21] “Don’t handle, nor taste, nor touch”? ... [Gal 4:3] So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental principles of the world. ... [9] But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, why do you turn back again to the weak and miserable elemental principles, to which you desire to be in bondage all over again? [10] You observe days, months, seasons, and years. ... [5:1] Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. [13] For you, brothers, were called for freedom. Only don’t use your freedom for gain to the flesh, but through love be servants to one another. [14] For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” ... [Jam 2:8] However, if you fulfill the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. ... [Gal 6:2] Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ... [Jam 1:27] Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Specifically in regard to the Lord's Supper, I'm saying that Biblically, it seems it was a supper (at night), and it was a full-blown meal, perhaps observed annually at first (it started out as a new twist on the yearly Passover), or perhaps daily as early as Acts 2, but traditionally, at least as early as the late 1st century (in the Didache, with hints of the transformation in 1 Cor 11:23-29), it seems to have been whittled down into a weekly early-morning nip-and-sip. Neither the frequency nor the methodology are specifically commanded; as someone else has often written, the core of the command is to remember Jesus "as often" as you do "this". The apostolic teaching/examples neither condemn nor demand the timing or the size of the meal.

And yes, that is uncomfortable. Like children who want to know the exact limits of the rules mommy and daddy have laid down, we test the "edge cases"; Can we do this? What about that? It's time to "no longer be children, tossed back and forth and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; [15] but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ" (Eph 4:14-15, & read the rest of the chapter).

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