Persecution is Coming for Christians in America

 by Brian Gunter

The United States of America is an anomaly in Church History. Most Christians throughout the two thousand year history of the Church have been persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Even at the time of the writing of the New Testament, we are told of believers that “they were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword” (Hebrews 11:37). Yet in America, Christians have grown accustomed to a peaceful and sometimes favored existence. Recent generations of Christians in America have largely assumed that their culture would recognize their right to religious liberty as codified in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

While I wish that the free exercise of faith would continue to be respected in America, the Bible warns us that such religious liberty will not last. The apostle Paul clearly warned us that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Paul would know, because he suffered imprisonment, countless beatings, at least five lashings with a leather whip, stoning, and the persistent threat of execution, all because Paul refused to stop following Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Dear Christian, do not be deceived by your comfortable life: persecution is coming. God says so. The only question is this: Will you be ready when you must suffer because of your faith?

The apostle Peter, who also suffered greatly for his faith in Christ, urged us: “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:12-13). Notice that Peter tells us “do not be surprised” at persecution as though it were “something strange.” To be honest, I don’t think that virtually any Christian in America truly understands what Peter meant when he wrote those words. Outside of the few American Christians who have suffered real persecution in an overseas missionary context, we just don’t know what it means to be persecuted for our faith. While we should be thankful for the unprecedented religious liberty we have experienced in America, we should not take it for granted or expect that God does not want us to suffer for our faith.

WHAT!? Yes, I said it. It may very well be God’s will that you should suffer for your faith in Christ. Have you ever heard anything like that before? Do you think I am crazy? Part of the problem with American Christianity is that we are simply unfamiliar with our Bibles. If we read our Bibles faithfully, in their entirety, we would know that there are numerous passages of Scripture which plainly tell us that it is likely God’s will that we should suffer as Christians. For instance, Peter also said: “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 3:19). Paul marveled that “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). Paul was amazed that God not only granted us saving faith, but also that the Lord gives us the privilege of suffering for him! How many times have you heard a sermon on the blessing of suffering?

Persecution is not a question of if, but a question of when. In a nation that is growing increasingly hostile to Christian faith and practice, especially when it comes to the biblical definition of marriage and sexuality, the reality of serious persecution for those who hold to the gospel of Jesus Christ is inevitable. We shouldn’t welcome persecution, but we also shouldn’t be surprised by it. “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).

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Harambe Wasn’t Made in God’s Image

by Dalton Adger

Earlier this week at the Cincinnati Zoo, a gorilla named Harambe was shot and killed after a four-year-old boy fell into his exhibit. If you haven’t heard about this yet, I’m going to assume you just crawled out of your fallout shelter and immediately stumbled across this blog post. Welcome to society in 2016! We care more about animals than humans.

All joking aside, the death of Harambe is very sad. As a Christian, I view the animal kingdom as something good that God created, a result of His creative mind. Gorillas are some of the most interesting, intelligent, and majestic creatures on the Earth. For one to be killed as a result of the circumstances that transpired at the Cincinnati Zoo makes any animal lover such as myself sad.

However, our thankfulness for the safety of the child that fell in should outweigh our sadness over the death of Harambe. The reason I am writing this blog post is because that doesn’t seem to be the case with the general public. I have read Facebook comments that go so far as to suggest or even blatantly state that the life of the gorilla was more important than the safety of the child. More than one comment I read was along these lines: “Humans aren’t the endangered species, why did the gorilla have to die for that little brat?” There is an outcry for legal actions to be taken against the mother of the boy, who is also being harassed by thousands of people because of her “neglect.” This sort of response is sickening to me because it demonstrates that so many people have it backwards.

In light of this, it is important for Christians to make sure that we are considering the situation with a Biblical worldview. What does the Bible have to say about humans and animals? What do Harambe and the little boy have to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Should we be angry with the zoo personnel or commend them for their actions? Should we direct rage toward the boy’s mother or extend grace?

Most of these questions I believe can be answered with the doctrine called the Imago Dei. This is a theological term that is Latin for “the image of God.” This is a phrase that we derive from the creation story in the Bible where God makes man in His image, according to His likeness. We should note that only man (man meaning mankind, men and women) is said to be created in God’s image, not animals. Harambe wasn’t made in God’s image. With the Imago Dei in mind, there are a few thoughts I would like to point out about the Harambe incident.

As God’s image bearers, we have a responsibility to care for animals.

I want to start with this point because I want to clear up any misconceptions that could possibly arise. I am going to point out that humans inherently have more value than animals. This does not mean that we have the right to abuse animals or needlessly take their lives. When the Bible teaches that we are made in the image of God, according to His likeness, this means two things: we are like God in some ways and we are His representatives on earth.

Genesis 1:26 (HCSB) says: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

God Himself directly links the ideas of man being made in God’s image and man’s dominion over the rest of creation. As God’s representatives, or image bearers, we have a responsibility to rule well. Abusing animals or killing them needlessly is misrepresenting God. It is taking advantage of our authority. It is sinful to do so.

The question then becomes this- Was the death of Harambe needless? I believe that killing an animal for food is not needless. God gives permission for man to do so (Genesis 9:3, Acts 10:13-15). Harambe wasn’t killed for food. I also believe that killing an animal that is a threat to the well being or life of a human is not a needless killing. And for that reason, Harambe’s death was necessary. No, it was not Harambe’s fault. Yes, he had to die because he posed an immediate threat to the four-year-old that bears God’s image.

So why does human life take priority over gorilla life?

As God’s image bearers, our lives are more valuable than animal life.

Once again, I want to stress that this does not mean that we have the right to mistreat animals in any way. However, human life is infinitely more valuable than animal life because humans are like God in ways that animals are not. Being made in the image of God, in His likeness, does mean that we are His representatives, but it also means that we reflect who God is in many ways. He has shared aspects of His character with us.

We are not given a definitive list of everything encompassed in the Imago Dei, but some characteristics are evident. When God creates man and woman in His image, it is clear that humans are made to be relational beings. This is rooted in the Triune nature of God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have always had a perfect relationship, and for this reason we were created to have relationships with other humans as well as God. Animals do have relationships within their ecosystem, but they are not to the same level as human relationships and animals certainly weren’t created for relationship with God. Our sense of right and wrong is also rooted in God’s image. Animals do not have a moral code, but rather act on instinct. Being made in God’s image means that we are eternal. The little boy that fell into the exhibit will grow up one day and if he puts his faith in Christ and receives God’s grace, he will spend eternity in heaven. If he does not and he dies in his sin, he will spend eternity in hell. Harambe does not have an eternity to spend anywhere because he was not made in God’s image.

Jesus Himself tells us that human life is more valuable than animal life. In Matthew 6, Jesus preaches that we should not worry because God is in control. He gives the example in verse 26 of the sparrows. He says that God takes care of them, so we should trust that God will take care of us. To emphasize this, he asks the rhetorical question, “Aren’t you worth more than they?” The obvious answer is, “Of course we are worth more than birds!” Why is it such an obvious answer? The birds are not made in God’s image. We are.

People have argued and will continue to argue about whether Harambe’s death had to take place. I have heard arguments that the gorilla would not have hurt the boy. Or maybe the gorilla could have been tranquilized. The fact of the matter is we don’t know what would have happened, but the zoo made the right call because that little boy is an image bearer of God, and his life was in real danger. And 100% of the time, the human life trumps the animal life. When we value animal life over human life, we are rejecting the very image of God and placing more importance on a created being, making it an idol. In other words, we are worshiping something created rather than the Creator, as Paul puts it in Romans 1.

There was one other image bearer who has garnered a lot of attention from this situation. The boy’s mother has been under attack since the incident occurred. The Imago Dei teaches us that the right decision was made when Harambe was killed for the boy’s safety. What does it teach us about how we should respond to the mother?

As God’s image bearers, we need grace.

The criticism of the boy’s mother is unfounded in my opinion. She is being called a terrible parent for taking her eyes off of her child for long enough for this to happen. I’m not a parent but I have been around small children. It is impossible to contain them all of the time. We do not know how diligently she was watching her child. The fact of the matter is she was thrust into a highly stressful situation and she needs a little bit of compassion. Her child was put in danger and I can’t imagine the fear that caused her. The last thing she needs is hundreds of thousands of people blaming her.

What she really needs is what we all need- grace. Can she be blamed for this incident? I don’t know because I was not there and the people blaming her should quit pretending that they were. But I do know this- whether the fault lies on her or not, we as Christians have received grace from God, and if we are not willing to extend that to others, we do not understand grace.

We were made in God’s image, but when sin entered the world, that image was distorted. The image is still present in us, so everything I’ve said about human value still applies. We still reflect God and represent Him. But because of sin, we do so imperfectly. That is why, even though we have a sense of right and wrong, we choose to do wrong all the time. This sin that has distorted and perverted God’s image is the same sin that separates every one of us from God, who is holy.

This is the gospel- God the Son came in human flesh and lived as the only image bearer to ever fully and perfectly reflect and represent God the Father by living a sinless life. He then died as our sacrifice on the cross, taking on the wrath of God against sin He never committed, but we did. He was then raised from the dead so that He could grant life to all who receive forgiveness for their sin that was earned on the cross. This was all an act of grace. Grace is simply when God gives us a gift we don’t deserve. His salvation for us is grace. We deserve hell for our sin, He gave us Christ instead. And the same grace that saved us is transforming us, removing all things that are the result of our sinful nature and leaving only the Image of God.

There is a lot of talk about what this mother deserves after this incident. Personally, I think she should be left alone. But I do know this- she deserves hell. Not because she took her eyes off of her child long enough for him to fall into a gorilla exhibit, but because she is a sinner like you and me. Every single person on the face of the earth deserves hell. If we can’t extend grace to this woman in this situation, how can we share the gospel with anyone? How can we receive the grace God has given us?

Did Harambe deserve to die? No, but he had to in order to protect that child. What should outrage and sadden us more than that is our own sin because Jesus Christ did not deserve to die, and yet He did on our behalf. Then we can move on from our outrage and our sadness to live in the grace that God has extended us as His image bearers.

3 Foundational Truths about the Bible

by Brian Gunter

We live in a culture in which people typically view the Bible as a storybook, a collection of inspirational quotes, or a cryptic codebook of prophecies. While the Bible has some amazing stories, inspirational verses, and contains much prophetic truth, the Bible was not primarily intended to be any of those things. The Bible is so much more than all of these things. The Bible is the divinely-inspired Word of God. The Bible is God’s message to God’s people. There are three foundational truths which will correct our common misconceptions about the Bible: inerrancy, sufficiency, and perspicuity.

Inerrancy

“Inerrant” literally means “without error.” When I say that the Bible is inerrant, I mean that the Bible is completely true, with nothing false in it whatsoever. The stories in the Bible are not merely stories; they are historical accounts of what actually took place in time and history. There was a real Adam and a real Eve, and they were the first man and the first woman to ever live. There was a real man named Jesus, who not only claimed to be the Son of God, but he proved that he is the Son of God by healing the sick, casting out demons, and even by raising himself from the dead.

Many liberal scholars will claim that the Bible is full of errors and is nothing more than an account of what ancient people once believed about God. However, the Bible claims inerrancy for itself: “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7). The term “law” which is translated here from the Hebrew “torah” is commonly used to refer to the Scripture itself. Psalm 19:7 actually says that the Bible is perfect, meaning that God’s Word is both true and complete. This brings us to our second foundational truth.

Sufficiency

By “sufficient” I mean that the Bible is enough. When God gave us the Bible, he gave us all that we need in order to know him and follow him. We don’t need another source of prophecy or revelation outside of Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the Bible is the very Word of God which has been breathed out by him, therefore, the Christian is “complete, equipped for every good work.”

This means that if you have a Bible, you have in your hands all that you need to accomplish every good work which God has called you to do. You don’t need The Book of Mormon, Jesus Calling, or The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven to reveal additional truths to you about God and his Kingdom. These books all claim to give us additional words from God or additional insights into the divine beyond what Scripture has revealed. However, you don’t need an extra-special source of revelation beyond the Bible. Your Bible is sufficient for all that you need to know concerning the Christian life. In fact, the apostle Peter said that it is better for you to have a Bible than to audibly hear God speak from heaven (2 Peter 2:19). In other words, put down Jesus Calling and pick up your Bible.

This does not mean that you should not read books or resources other than the Bible. Rather, this means that the Bible alone is divinely-inspired. You should read other books, and they may be helpful, but you must remember that the Bible is the only book with God as its author. These books do not reveal additional truths about God. Rather, they help you to better understand the truths found in the Bible.

Perspicuity

This word is more difficult to pronounce than it is to understand. “Perspicuity” is a fancy theological word which means that the Bible is clear enough for the Christian to understand its message. This does not mean that all passages of Scripture are equally clear. The second half of the book of Daniel is certainly more difficult to interpret than 1 John. However, the core message of the Bible is sufficiently clear so that anyone who carefully reads God’s Word will be able to understand the gospel. As the 5th century theologian, Augustine, once remarked: “The Bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.”

Many church-going people today deny this critical doctrine. With good intentions, they say things like: “I just can’t understand the Bible, so I need someone else to explain it to me.” While there is great value in someone explaining the Bible to you in a sermon or biblical commentary, this does not mean that you are incapable of understanding the central message of the Bible. The church, your pastor, and all the insights of Christians throughout the years are available to help you better understand the Bible, but you are still capable of reading and understanding the Bible. On top of all this, God has given his children the promised Holy Spirit of whom Jesus says: “he will teach you all things,” and “he will guide you into all the truth” (John 14:26; 16:13).*

This blog is entitled “Making Wise the Simple” from the last part of Psalm 19:7: “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” The Bible is a sure guide to the “simple.” The word “simple” is not intended by the psalmist as an insult to our intelligence, but rather as a reassurance that if we are humble and diligent to apply ourselves to the study of Scripture, then we will become wise in all that we need to know for serving the Lord.

*Jesus originally gave these promises to his Eleven disciples (minus Judas) just before his crucifixion in order to assure them that they would be able carry out all of his commands with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Are Crawfish Boils Sinful?

by Dalton Adger

I have been a resident of Louisiana my entire 23 years of existence. I grew up in the Shreveport area, which many of our Cajun counterparts consider an extension of Texas masquerading as Louisiana. But even in the part of our state that has been deemed “Yankee-country” by some southern statesmen, we like to eat crawfish.

I haven’t been a Christian for as long as I have been a native of Louisiana. However, my identity as a follower of Christ is much more important to me than my state citizenship. As a Louisianian I love to attend crawfish boils and eat to my heart’s content. But as a Christian, am I a hypocrite for enjoying this cultural cuisine? After all, Leviticus 11:12 forbids consumption of any marine animal without “fins and scales,” calling such creatures “detestable.” When churches host crawfish boils, are they doing so in direct contradiction to the Word of God that they claim to believe wholly?

The reason for this blog post is to address the question of God’s law found in the Old Testament. Why do so many Christians eat shellfish and pork, order their steaks rare, wear clothes with different types of thread woven together, and even have tattoos when the Bible forbids these things in the Old Testament law? As a lover of crawfish, bacon, and rare steak who has tattoos and wears shirts made of multiple materials, am I blatantly disobeying God?

Many agnostics, atheists, or non-Christians in general have pointed to these verses as inconsistencies within our faith. Many believers have responded to these objections with a claim similar to the following- “That is the Old Testament; it doesn’t apply to us.” This answer, along with the question in the first place, demonstrates a vital misunderstanding of the relationship between the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Christian. The Old Testament very much applies to us today and yet there is no hypocrisy inherent in a church crawfish boil. How could this be the case?

Here are three points to keep in mind.

1. The Old Testament should not be ignored or dismissed.

I cringe when I hear Christians with good intentions imply or even directly state that the Old Testament does not apply to us. The common idea is that the New Testament replaced the Old Testament. Or it is at least not as important as the Old Testament. Even many pastors seem to believe this. They may not say it, but actions speak louder than words, and the fact of the matter is that most pulpits focus on the New Testament 90% of the time when the Old Testament is 75% of what we call the Bible. The impression that the average church member receives is that the New Testament deserves a lot more attention than the Old Testament, and as long as you read Genesis, Proverbs, and a few Psalms every once in a while, you probably have a good balance. This is wrong, and it should not be practiced or preached.

The Old Testament is vitally important. It is the only Bible that Jesus read on Earth, it is the Bible from which the apostles preached, and without the Old Testament there would be no New Testament. You are probably familiar with 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (it is New Testament, after all).

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. HCSB

The first two words we see there are “all Scripture.” All means all. It certainly means the Old Testament, which Paul, the author of 2 Timothy, had been reading all of his life. All means the prophets, major and minor, of the Old Testament even if they are hard understand. All means Song of Songs, even if all of that heated romantic talk makes you blush. All means every genealogy in our Bibles, and there are a lot of them. All means the books of the Chronicles and the Kings, even if they seem repetitive at times. All means all. It is all there for a purpose. God, in His sovereignty, inspired human authors to write every bit of it. As one of the pastors of First Baptist Church of Pollock, I want every member at our church to have a high view of Scripture, and that certainly includes the Old Testament.

The longest chapter in all of Scripture is Psalm 119. You know what it is about? Scripture. Different terms are used, such as God’s law, instruction, word, etc. But the entire chapter is about the benefit the Bible has for God’s people and the Psalmist’s love for it. To dismiss the Old Testament by claiming it doesn’t apply to us anymore or to ignore it by only spending time in the New Testament cheapens 75% of what we Christians claim to be the actual Word of God. We have to come up with a more sufficient answer than that. It shouldn’t be surprising that the sufficient answer is found in the Bible itself.

2. Let Scripture interpret Scripture.

When we eat crawfish and don’t sacrifice animals, it isn’t because we are picking and choosing which parts of God’s law to follow. Throughout redemptive history, God’s revelation to His people was progressive. In other words, humans didn’t have the whole Word of God until the Bible was completed with the book of Revelation. So we would expect that parts of the Bible that are written later would shift and mold the understanding of parts that were written earlier. For example, from the beginning we see that there is a plurality within God. In Genesis 1:26, when man is created, God says “let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The plurality of God is there, but it remains a bit of a mystery. This mystery is fleshed out in the New Testament, which affirms the Old Testament truth that there is one God, but also demonstrates that He exists as three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This understanding sheds light on the verse in Genesis (and other similar Old Testament verses) and gives us a fuller understanding.

In the same way, the New Testament sheds light on the Old Testament law and reveals that not every law was meant for all people, everywhere, throughout time. Historically, Christians have understood God’s Old Testament law to be separated into three different categories- moral law, ceremonial law, and judicial/civil law. Although the Bible never labels them in these categories, the distinctions between these types of laws are clear.

Judicial/Civil Law- Ancient Israel’s Governing Rule

In the Mosaic covenant, these types of laws are given in order for the nation of Israel to be governed. This sort of law includes penalties for crimes, regulations for business transactions, and guidelines for a range of things, from plowing a field to interacting with foreign travelers.

A plain reading of this law makes it clear that it was never intended to be applied to all people everywhere, but was specific to that nation. This is why, when we read the civil law and see that the penalty for idolatry is stoning, we don’t have the right as Christians to stone idolaters. The moral law, which will be addressed later, teaches us that idolatry is sinful. But the capital punishment for idolatry in the civil law is not used now. Why? That law doesn’t apply to us. I don’t live in ancient Israel, I live in modern day America, and we have our own civil laws.

Jesus, in his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), quotes several civil laws and corrects the misapplication of those laws. Perhaps the clearest example is in Matthew 5:38-39. Jesus quotes the judicial law from Exodus 21:24 that states “an eye for an eye” and “a tooth for tooth.” In contrast, Jesus says that we should not respond to wrong committed against us with vengeance. Rather, if someone slaps us on the right cheek, we should “turn the other to him also.” This is a prime example of a judicial law, one that was about punishment fitting the crime in a system of government, being misapplied to try and justify personal revenge on others. The point here is that Jesus was not discrediting the civil law, or picking and choosing what he wanted from the Old Testament, but he understood how the law was meant to be applied.

Trying to apply the judicial/civil laws now would be like a police officer trying to write me a ticket for going 75 miles per hour on I-49 in Louisiana (which is the speed limit) because the speed limit for four lane highways 20 years ago in Delaware was 55 miles per hour. When I don’t stone every homosexual or idol worshipper I meet, it is not because I’m picking and choosing what parts of the Bible I believe, but because the Bible itself indicates that those sorts of penalties were for the government of ancient Israel to exact upon those who broke the law.

Ceremonial Law- The Shadow of Christ

Where the civil law was primarily concerned with how the people of Israel related to one another, the ceremonial law was primarily concerned with how the people of Israel related to God. The civil law stood to structure their government. The ceremonial law stood to structure their religion. Involved in this law were regulations for priests, the temple, worship practices, and sacrificial ceremonies. These laws were in place to give the people access to their God.

Also as a part of this law were ways for God to set apart Israel as distinctively His people. They were prohibited from eating certain foods that the other nations enjoyed. They were prohibited from wearing certain clothes that the other nations adorned. They were circumcised, the other nations kept their foreskin. The point was they were not supposed to be like the pagan, idol worshipping, child-sacrificing nations around them. It is worth noting that many of these laws that seem silly to us today actually had to do with making sure the Israelites were not emulating the pagan worship practices of the cultures around them. When the book of Leviticus condemns certain cloths being sewn together, beards being cut certain ways, and tattoos, it isn’t because God is concerned with fashion. Those things were a part of cultic practices of idolaters in that time. The point of the ceremonial law was to set Israel apart as distinctively God’s while also giving them a way to have relationship with Him.

Why don’t we practice this ceremonial law today? Well the book of Hebrews lets us know that the practices of the ceremonial law were put in place to point to Christ as the true way to access God. Hebrews 10:1 says that all of these things (the ceremonial law) were a shadow of the good things to come. When you look at a shadow, you see a distorted and partial glimpse of whatever is creating the shadow. When we look at the ceremonial law, Hebrews tells us that it is a partial glimpse at the reality of Christ. Now that Christ has come and fulfilled the law, we don’t need to look to the shadow anymore. We don’t need priests because Jesus is our priest who gains us access to the Father. We don’t need a temple anymore because God’s presence dwells in those who have turned to Christ. We don’t need to sacrifice animals anymore because the atoning sacrifice of Christ was made once and for all.

I want to specifically address the food portion of the ceremonial law, so if you are only skimming this article to see if you can keep eating crawfish, here is where you need to pay attention. In Acts chapter 10, Peter has a vision three times of a large sheet that contained all of the animals of the world, including what Jews were forbidden by ceremonial law to eat. In this vision, Peter is commanded by God to kill and eat these animals. Peter defies this command with good reason- the law states that he cannot eat unclean animals and he wants to obey God’s Word. But the key verse is verse 15, where the voice says, “What God has made clean, you must not call unclean.”

The purpose of this vision is to represent the gospel being available to the Gentiles, as indicated by Peter then going to preach to a group of Gentiles who are then saved. But what we learn from this is that the ceremonial law that included cultural and ethnic distinctions, including what foods to eat, is no longer what set God’s people apart. The Gentiles were saved. They received the Holy Spirit (v. 44). That is what sets apart the church, who are God’s people, and the rest of the world. We receive new hearts and new desires and are no longer spiritually dead in our depravity.

The Gentiles that were saved didn’t have to start obeying the ceremonial laws and give up the food they had been eating their whole lives because God indicated in the vision He gave Peter that He has made Gentiles, including their food, clean. They didn’t have to follow the ceremonial law and be circumcised either, which is made clear at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Under the New Covenant we relate to God through Christ and we are set apart by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That has taken the place of the ceremonial law, and once again, this isn’t something Christians came up with to explain why we eat crawfish and don’t sacrifice lambs anymore. The Scripture indicates that the ceremonial law doesn’t apply to us.

Moral Law- Right and Wrong

Finally, we arrive at the moral law. The moral law is simply what God has deemed right and wrong. The moral law is best summed up in the 10 Commandments. The civil law doesn’t apply to us anymore because we aren’t under that system of government. The ceremonial law doesn’t apply to us anymore because it was a shadow of Christ. In the same way that Scripture indicates to us that these no longer apply, Scripture also indicates that the moral law does.

In fact, Romans 2:16 states that the law of God is written on every heart. Because every person is made in the image of God, we have this law stamped on us internally from our very conception. This is why we all know murder is wrong. But if that is the case, then why did God feel the need to put it in writing for us? Well, because in our sinful depravity, we twist that law that is on our hearts, we ignore that law that is on our hearts, and we break that law that is on our hearts. And we try to justify ourselves while we do it. God gives us the 10 commandments and lists upon lists throughout both the Old and New Testament to affirm what we already know in our hearts- we constantly do wrong and enjoy our wrongdoing when we are lost in our sin.

The reason we still apply this law today, unlike the ceremonial and civil laws, is because this law is concerned with right and wrong. This is rooted in God’s character. God’s character does not change, therefore what is right and wrong does not change. This is why it was wrong for Cain to murder Abel even though the 10 commandments hadn’t been given yet. This is why the New Testament still calls murder a sin. The New Testament constantly affirms that what God plainly states is wrong morally in the Old Testament will always be wrong. Sin is sin. Unlike the civil and ceremonial law, there is never any indication in the Bible that right and wrong has changed. The accusation that we cherry pick the commands we want to obey is an unfounded slight against Christians because we have always stood on Scripture to tell us which laws still stand. The moral law is that law.

3. We should view the Old Testament through a gospel lens.

I have worn glasses for over a year now. My eyesight isn’t terrible without glasses, but it is imperfect enough that before I got them, I would squint to read road signs or watch TV and I would get headaches. The thing is I didn’t even know my vision was bad until a friend asked me why I was squinting all the time. When I went to the eye doctor and got glasses, the problem I didn’t even know I had was fixed. I saw clearly when before I didn’t realize that anything was blurry.

When we read the Old Testament, we should do so with gospel glasses on our face. We should be looking through the lens of the gospel of Christ. This means that when we read any part of the law, we should ask ourselves- how does this fit in with the gospel story? What does this have to do with the fact that all humans are sinners separated from God, that God the Son came to the earth and lived a perfect life, died on the cross as our atonement for sin, and was risen three days later? What does this have to do with the fact that anyone who repents of his sin by faith and receives the grace of God will be saved?

When we look at the moral law of God, we see from the gospel that we have all broken it. When we look at the ceremonial law of God, we see that this has separated us from God and we need atonement to be made for our sin if we want relationship with Him. When we look at the civil law, we see that the righteous judgment over our sin is death. All of these aspects of the law teach us that we are sinners who, if left in our sin, would be condemned to an eternal separation from God, which is eternal death. This is a huge problem. When we put on our gospel lenses, we see that Jesus Christ is the answer to that problem.

If we are in Christ, the penalty for our sin was paid by Him on the cross. Because He is now risen, He can give eternal, spiritual life to those who deserve eternal, spiritual death. Included in this eternal life is a new heart, one indwelt with the Holy Spirit, which enables us to follow God’s moral law. And when we do that imperfectly, we can approach the throne of God’s grace with boldness, not through ceremonial law practices, but through Christ, our mediator. We are distinguished from the cultures around us, not because we abstain from shellfish and pork, but because our lives have been completely changed and we are being sanctified from the inside out. Each aspect of the law is answered and fulfilled in Christ, and we can only see that through a gospel lens.

Letting Scripture interpret Scripture and understanding the law in the light of the gospel leads us to the knowledge of which laws apply today and which don’t. I hope you see the difference between that approach and saying that the Old Testament doesn’t apply anymore. And I hope you see the difference between that and the accusation that we pick and choose for ourselves what laws to follow. But most of all, I hope the law paints a picture of your need for Christ.

So no, crawfish boils are not sinful. Eat crawfish to your heart’s content.

 

*If you would like to see how early Baptists understood the law and its divisions, see The 1689: The Second London Baptist Confession, Chapter XIX.

**Although the 10 Commandments still stand as the summation of God’s moral law, the fourth commandment is applied differently. Christians recognize a Sabbath, but it is now on Sunday as a celebration of Christ’s resurrection and we recognize it by gathering together in corporate worship. This was the approach of the early church of the New Testament, where Sunday is called The Lord’s Day. See Colossians 2:16-17.

A Theology Blog Meant for You

As a busy pastor with a ton a responsibilities, my wife is certainly going to ask me: “Why in the world did you think you needed to add something else to your plate? A blog? Really?”

My first response will be: “Dalton* made me do it!” After all, this blog is Dalton’s idea. Yet I am glad that he talked me into embarking on this new endeavor with him. As pastors together in the same local church, our desire is to see God’s people grow in the knowledge of Scripture, in their love for the Lord, and in their service to Jesus. I have been a pastor for just over a decade, and I have learned that the spiritual growth process must take place in that order. First love of Scripture, then love for God, then love to serve God

Once a person repents of his sin and surrenders his life to Jesus Christ as Lord, then the Holy Spirit begins to sanctify that person. Sanctification is the spiritual process whereby the Holy Spirit continually shapes and molds a Christian to become less like the world and more like Christ. Our desire is to facilitate and enflame that spiritual process of sanctification within you. We know there is no greater resource which God has given pastors to lead his people toward spiritual growth than the spiritual food of Scripture.

Our desire is to feed you solid food. Meat, not just milk. We want to answer those questions which have been gnawing away at your soul with the unchanging truths which can only be found in sacred Scripture. However, we are not writing to our seminary professors. Don’t misunderstand me. We have a deep appreciation for those guys, and they have taught us so much. But we aren’t called to shepherd our professors. We are called to shepherd the sheep. We want to pick the best fruit from the highest branches of God’s spiritual tree, otherwise known as the Bible, and then hand-deliver to you those spiritual truths which are the greatest sustenance you will ever find for your hungry soul.

If you are willing to dig deep into God’s Word, you will find unfading riches that you never knew existed. I want to prove to you that the following promise is true:

“The law of the Lord is perfect,

                        reviving the soul;

            The testimony of the Lord is sure,

                        making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7

In my next article, I will explain the three basic “presuppositions” or “foundational starting-points” from which we will plumb the infinite depths of God’s unfathomable Word.

 

In Christ,

Brian Gunter

Pastor, FBC Pollock

 

*Dalton Adger is the Associate Pastor of our church and will be another writer on this blog, as well as the editor. He is also the coolest person I know. 😉