Christians and the Law

First, for whom was the Law intended? The Old Testament says that the Law was intended to show Israel and the world that Israel was a holy nation – separated for God and different from the rest of the world.

According to the Old Testament, the Law was given to the nation of Israel (and those Gentiles living within it) to be able to live, and live safely in the land:

Exodus 19:3-6

3 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

Leviticus 18:1-5

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. 3 According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. 4 You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 18:24-30

24 ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. 25 For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. 26 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you 27 (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), 28 lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. 29 For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.
30 ‘Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am the LORD your God.’”

Leviticus 25:18

” ‘Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land.

But the New Testament describes a purpose that was something more than what was described in the Old Testament. Paul said the Law was put into effect to point us to our need for Christ.

Galatians 3:19-25

19What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. 21Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.  23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

Rom 3:19-20

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

Rom 5:20-21.

20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

So the purpose of the Law was to show the people of Israel how to live and point us to our need for Christ. Sacrifices can never make one perfect, unlike Christ. The animal and grain sacrifices were a reminder of sin, but did not take away the sin. Only the sacrifice of the body of Christ could make us holy. I think the phrase “once for all” has dual meaning – the one sacrifice for all sins of all people and for all sins of any one person. It was Jesus who took away the sins of the world, not following the Law.

John 1:29

29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Hebrews 10:1-14

1The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  5Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:  “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,  but a body you prepared for me;  6with burnt offerings and sin offerings  you were not pleased.  7Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—  I have come to do your will, O God.’ ” 8First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). 9Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The temple was destroyed in AD 70. We have no Biblical evidence for the reason of the destruction of the temple. However, I believe because Christ had come and died and in doing so He ended the need for animal sacrifice. With the end for the need of animal sacrifice, Christ ended the sacrificial system. Because of this, the temple was destroyed because it was not needed to remind people of their sins.

The Law was given to only certain people – not to everyone.

1 Tim 1:9

9 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels,

Romans 3:19-20

19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

Note that the Law was given AFTER the promise of the blessing to all nations was given to Abraham.

Genesis 12:3

3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 18:18

18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.

Genesis 22:18

18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Galatians 3:8

8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”

The Law was a shadow of the things to come.

Colossians 2:16-17

16Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Hebrews 10:1

1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

Jesus was a Law abiding Jew, but it’s interesting that He seemed to speak to the spirit of the Law instead of the letter of it, while at the same time saying he did not come to abolish it. For instance, why would he say to not resist an evil person, rather than to follow the Law, where it says ‘an eye for an eye’?

Ex 21:22-25

22 “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Leviticus 24:19-20

19 If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured.

Deuteronomy 19:16-21

16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, 17 the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, 19 then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Matthew 5:38-42

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

While we can not be positive, I believe He did so because the Law could be boiled down to: love God and love our neighbor.

Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. In fulfilling the Law, He cancelled it. This is a different thing entirely from simply saying they no longer applied – but that because the Law’s purpose had been completed, it are no longer necessary. His concern was not whether people were following the letter of the Law, but whether they loved God. If there was inner love for God, they would seek to do what God wanted.

Matthew 5:17-20

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

How does one’s righteousness surpass that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law? Only by having that which is given you through faith in Christ.

Some want to read Matthew 5:17-20 as saying that both ‘Heaven and earth must disappear’ AND ‘everything must be accomplished’ before the Law is ended. Some might want to think that either the two dependent clauses are the same, or that one is a subset of the other, or that they are sequential. In all cases, this would require that both be completed before the Law was ended.  But this goes against what Paul said about the Law.

What is the difference between abolish and fulfill?  Abolish means cancel, destroy, or terminate (ie. I no longer have to pay a debt if the debt is abolished/cancelled). Fulfill means complete (ie. I no longer have to pay a debt once the debt has been completed/met). The effects are the same, but the reason is different – in my example, the debt no longer must be paid.  If it is abolished, it no longer has to be paid because the debt was terminated; if it is fulfilled, it no longer has to be paid because the debt was completed.

In the same way, heaven and earth would have to disappear before the need for man’s righteousness through the Law would be abolished (terminated), however the need for righteousness was completely met when Christ finished His work on the cross for our imputed righteousness (His completing what was necessary for our salvation is what the ‘everything’ refers to). That is the only way for someone’s righteousness to surpass that of the Pharisees (which is what Mt 5:20 speaks of).

My reading doesn’t say the two dependent clauses are or are not related to each other, only that they both have something to do with the law disappearing – the first abolishing them, the second completing them.

Nor does it suggest Jesus did not know, but that his audience did not know.  Jesus was known for purposefully saying things in ways that did not lend themselves to easy interpretation.

Let me given an example:  Until I come home, my children can not go outside and play until their homework is complete.

In my example, I know when I am coming home; my kids have an idea of it also, but cannot know the exact time. They DO know that they can’t go out until their schoolwork and chores are done, or I come home (the latter does not guarantee they will go out, but without their chores being done, they certainly can not go out and it is a possibility they may go out). The two dependent clauses are not necessarily related, though they may be. For this reason, I consider the two dependent clauses to be a logical OR, rather than a logical AND.

And in fact, this reading goes along well with what Paul said about the Law no longer being needed, as well as with what the council of elders wrote to the Gentile believers not needed to follow the dietary laws.

Christ told us that was was written about Him was reaching fulfillment….

Luke 22:37

37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

In fact, Christ said He finished His redeeming work on the Cross.

John 19:30

30When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Jesus told the disciples that everything written about him was fulfilled.

Luke 24:40-48

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”  45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things

Christ said the disciples “ARE” witnesses – not would be.

Once the Law had accomplished its purpose, the Law was no longer in effect (the difference between completed/fulfilled and abolish is one of cause rather than effect – the effect is the same, we are no longer under the Law). In fact, Paul said the old code was cancelled.

Colossians 2:13-16

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. 16  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

Romans 10:2-4

2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Galatians 3:23-26

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.  24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.  25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,  26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

Ephesians 2:13-16

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in  himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,  16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

We have been released from the Law:

Romans 7:4-12

4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. 7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.  11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

Jesus established a new covenant, based on grace and faith.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD,  “when I will make a new covenant  with the house of Israel  and with the house of Judah.  32 It will not be like the covenant  I made with their forefathers  when I took them by the hand  to lead them out of Egypt,  because they broke my covenant,  though I was a husband to them, ”  declares the LORD.  33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’  because they will all know me,  from the least of them to the greatest,”  declares the LORD.  “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Acts 13:38, 39

38“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.

Hebrews 8:1-13

10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” 13By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

Some want to say we are not yet in the New Covenant era is described in Jeremiah 31. But the author of Hebrews was quite clear that we are.

Hebrews 7:22

22 Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

Hebrews 8:6

6 But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.

Hebrews 9:15

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

In fact, Jesus Himself said we are under the new covenant.

Luke 22:20

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

1 Corinthians 11:25

25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

We are in fact under a different priesthood.

Hebrews 7:11

11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?

Jesus is the high priest of the new priesthood.

Hebrews 7:24-28

24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely  those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

26 Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Hebrews 9:11

11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation.

So we are indeed under the new covenant. Not only that, but we are ministers of the new covenant.

2 Corinthians 3:6

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now, obviously we can not be justified by the Law.

Galatians 5:4

4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Paul said we are not to be prisoners of the Law. IF you try to follow the Law, should you not do it all?

James 2:10

10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

But according to Paul, you can not keep all the law. In fact we are specifically told NOT to live by the law.

Galatians 3:10-14

10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Paul was worried about people becoming enslaved to the Law. He specifically mentioned the special holidays.

Galatians 4:8-11

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

The Law does not help us restrain from sensual indulgence.

Colossians 2:16-23

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. 20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

In regards to diet, God originally people all plants as food:

Genesis 1:29-30

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

It may be that there were plants that could not be eaten, From the context, it is not clear what is meant where God said Noah was to take every kind of food that is to be eaten. Obviously, in context, the food would have been grains and vegetables. However, was He speaking of edible food, or food that would be eaten during the flood? I believe he was talking about food that would be eaten while floating around in the flood:

Genesis 6:21

You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

There was a notion of animals clean and unclean at the time of Noah, as we see in Genesis 7:2-3, before the flood, be any mention of animals being eaten:

2 Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth

But after the flood, God gave Noah and his sons everything that lives and moves (ie. land animals and fish and birds) to eat. To underscore this, he reminded Noah that He had originally given the green plants to eat, and in the same way He was giving all animals to eat:

Genesis 9:3-4

3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. 4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.

So again, the question is what does ‘everything that lives and moves will be food for you’ mean? Meat was not given to eat until Genesis 9, and still there was a concept food that could be eaten. It is safe to say that before animals were given as food, they would have been clean/unclean in terms of sacrifice/ceremony.

While it is possible to narrow the term everything to include only clean animals, I think that ‘everything’ in this instance included clean and unclean animals. Otherwise, why would God specify to Noah ‘everything’ here rather than specify to not eat unclean animals, to only later specifically lay out what animals were clean and unclean to Moses and could and could not be eaten (which He did in Leviticus 11)? It would be reasonable to spell out clean and unclean animals for Noah if that were important, since there was already a concept of edible food. But in fact, it was not until the exodus that God laid out for the Jews certain animals as being unclean in terms of food and so they could not eat them.

Jesus himself said that it’s not what is outside a person that makes him unclean (such as food), but what comes from the heart according to biblestudytools.net which has an NASB with Strong’s numbers, shows the words ARE in the Scripture, even though they are in parenthesis (The same text is present in the ESV, NASB, NIV, NLTse, LBLA, RVR09, RVR95, CEV, NKJV, NCV, ASV, Youngs Literal Translation, Holman Christian Standard). Even those versions which footnote when older manuscripts do have contain a certain verse do not show this verse as not being present in the older texts. See http://www.biblestudytools.net/OnlineStudyBible/bible.cgi?word=Mark+7%3A15+-+23&section=0&version=nsn&new=1&oq=&NavBook=mr&NavGo=7&NavCurrentChapter=7:

Mark 7:14-23

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ ” 17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) 20 He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.

Notice, Mark said Jesus declared all foods clean. Although those words are in parentheses, they are in the text used to translate the Bible.

As an aside, some people claim that in first century Israelite lingo, to “abolish” the Torah meant to interpret it incorrectly and to “fulfill” meant to interpret it correctly. But this is an incorrect understanding of abolish and fulfill. Matthew 2:23 uses the word fulfill to mean complete:

and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Acts 6:14 uses the word destroy for the word translated as abolish in Matthew 5:17.

14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

Fulfill means complete (http://www.biblestudytools.net/Lexicons/Greek/grk.cgi?number=4137&version=nas ), while abolish means disolve/destroy (http://www.biblestudytools.net/Lexicons/Greek/grk.cgi?number=2647&version=nas ). Since Christ completed the purpose of the Law, we are released from its requirements. Which is what Paul told us.

Ok, back to the topic at hand, so what is food? Apparently plants are food:

Genesis 1:29-30

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

As we saw before, it may be that there were certain plants that could not be eaten, but were considered food. In context, edible food would have been vegetables, since no meat had yet been given as food:

Genesis 6:21

You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

Also, before the Law, food was anything that lived and moved:

Genesis 9:3

Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

After the Law, there was food that defiles a man:

Daniel 1:8

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way

One assumes since Daniel asked for vegetables, that vegetables are food that did not defile him:

Daniel 1:12

“Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.

So food is anything that goes into the mouth and into the stomach that can sustain life. Some food was considered clean and some unclean after the Law was given.

In the New Testament, Paul wrote that for a Christian, no food is unclean, and all food is in fact clean (This would go along with my understanding of what Jesus taught in Mk 7:1-23). But Paul also wrote to not pass judgment on one another and to be convinced in your own mind. We should do what leads to peace and mutual building up – rather than eat something that causes someone to stumble.

Romans 14:13-21

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

Peter had a dream where he was told to eat unclean animals by God and was told what God has made clean, do not call unclean. This vision was specifically in reference to God calling Gentile believers clean (given the context of what happened next), but it is interesting God chose this symbol, especially since God had originally given all animals as food.

Acts 10:9-16

9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”  14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”  16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

James and the council of elders did not think it necessary to make the gentile believers follow the Law to the letter – but to abstain from things that were done in following other gods. It may be that they said this because the Law was read in the synagogue and they felt the new believers would learn it that way, or it may be that they said to avoid these things specifically because the Law was read every Sabbath and these things should be avoided to avoid problems with the non-Christian Jews.  But you can’t have it both ways – if Jews were persecuting the non-Jews and not allowing them into the synagogues (and this was certainly the case), then it is not likely the new believers would be learning the Old Testament teachings from the synagogue.

Acts 15:12-21

12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up: “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 ” ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ 18 that have been known for ages.   19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

Paul warned of people who would teach to avoid foods.

1 Timothy 4:1-5

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Paul even corrected Peter, when Peter began to eat only with the Jews when earlier he had eaten with the Gentiles. Obviously there were Jews and Gentiles in Antioch. He was not talking about just “customs” but the Law.

Galatians 2:11-21

11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.  14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?  15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.  17″If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

The observance of the Sabbaths was originally given as a requirement so the nation of Israel would remember that God is God, and it is HE who makes them holy.

Exodus 31:12-13

12 Then the LORD said to Moses, 13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy

No foreigner should eat of the Passover. And if you want to follow the Passover, you should be of the nation of Israel, and you and everyone one in your home should be circumcised, and it should be eaten in the home:

Exodus 12:43-49

43 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover:  “No foreigner is to eat of it. 44 Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, 45 but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it.  46 “It must be eaten inside one house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.  48 “An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. 49 The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you.”

For some people, faith seems to be reflected in food or special days. We are not to look down on people who do or do not observe them. Remember that before Noah and the flood, we were only given vegetables to eat, and afterwards, we were given all animals to eat as well. But even though for some people faith is reflected in food or special days, Paul tells that these things do not bring us closer to God.

Romans 14:1-8

1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.  2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.  4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.  6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.  7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.  8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

1Corinthians 8:8-13

8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat , and no better if we do.  9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.  12 When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

Paul said to not follow Jewish customs, speaking of the Law and the hedge-laws set up by the Rabbis. But even in doing so Paul was careful to encourage the brothers to show love and patience to others.

Galatians 2:11-16

11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.  14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?   15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

Colossians 2:13-17 (Read in context, he was speaking about Jewish Sabbaths and eating/drinking)

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.  16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Galatians 4:9-11 (in context – see all of chapters 4 and 5 – Paul is speaking of becoming a Jew and following Jewish Law)

9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?  10 You observe days and months and seasons and years!  11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

This can bee seen especially Galatians 4:21

21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?

Not being required to follow the Law does not mean we are to not show God’s love. In fact, we are commanded to do that.  Our faith should have feet – we need to walk our life of faith.

James 2:15-17

15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17I n the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

We need to not be ignorant of the Law, as it helps us understand things. Jesus was a Law observing Jew – but recall that this was BEFORE Christ paid the sacrificial price in full.

Luke 22:7-8

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

Gal. 4:4

4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,

In fact, the Law is part of the Scriptures inspired by God, which are good for teaching, for reproving, and for training in righteousness – so we can do good things. We SHOULD look for things that are pleasing to God and do those things.  But it is the SPIRIT of God we need to have in ourselves and reflect in our lives – not following each jot and tittle.

2 Tim. 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

And we can not forget that even Paul’s writings are Scripture:

2 Peter 3: 15-16

15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Jesus said if you have anger and lust this is equivalent to murder and adultery.  This went far beyond the letter of the Law.

Matthew 5:21-30

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.  25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell

In fact, Jesus told us what was required – to love God and others.

Matt. 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

And I see that this is what Scripture says elsewhere as well, but note that the things he focused on were parts of the moral laws:

Romans 13:9-10

9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law

Those who try to keep the Law are in danger.

James 2:10

10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

Ultimately, since the purpose of the Law was to point us to Christ, and it was fulfilled with Christ on the cross, and since we have been released from the Law, we are no longer under the Law. So we have no obligation to follow it. 

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5 Responses

  1. […] He does not understand that by fulfilling the Law, the requirements of it were abolished (Galatians 3:25; Ephesians 2:14-16; Acts 15:20). He thinks the things mentioned in council in Acts 15 were a starting point for new believers, not the final statement in what to avoid. This is something on which I have posted before. […]

  2. […] A fuller look at the significance of the Law can be found here: Significance of the Mosaic Law. While a good look at Christians and the Law can be seen here: Christians And The Law. […]

  3. Thank you! This matches much of what the Spirit has been teaching me lately.

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