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May 23, 2012


A Slack Defense of the Shellfish Argument

Yesterday I posted this article by Dr. Al Mohler in which he briefly but effectively deals with the “shellfish argument”. The shellfish argument, for those who don’t know, is what lies behind accusatory questions like: “If you really believe what the bible says, why are you eating that bacon?”

It’s the kind of question only someone wholly ignorant of great swaths of the New Testament or an Episcopal bishop (but I repeat myself) could ask. Al Mohler deals with it like this:

“An honest consideration of the Bible reveals that most of the biblical laws people point to in asking this question, such as laws against eating shellfish or wearing mixed fabrics, are part of the holiness code assigned to Israel in the Old Testament. That code was to set Israel, God’s covenant people, apart from all other nations on everything from morality to diet.

As the Book of Acts makes clear, Christians are not obligated to follow this holiness code. This is made clear in Peter’s vision in Acts 10:15. Peter is told, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”

You can read the full text of chapter 10 here. Peter’s vision marks a major turning point in the book of Acts, the beginning of the mission to the Gentiles. Before this time most law-abiding Jews - Jewish Christians like the apostle Peter included - believed that they could not enter Gentile homes without violating the divinely revealed holiness laws Dr. Mohler describes above. But in Acts 10, God changes everything when he gives Peter a vision and a command. The vision basically involves the descent of a giant picnic blanket filled with animals that the holiness code forbids Jews to eat. Then a voice commands, “Rise Peter, kill and eat.” Peter objects saying, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice responds with the words Dr. Mohler quotes above: “What God has made clean do not call common.”

One is left to ask, when did God make these things clean? He was, after all, the one who told his people not to eat them. What did God do between the revelation of these laws to Moses and Peter’s vision? Almost certainly the voice in the vision refers to the death of Jesus Christ. God made the unclean things clean by the blood of his Son shed on the cross (as Jesus anticipates here).

The earth shattering significance of this vision is that because of the work of Christ the holiness code, the “law” as Paul calls it, no longer stands between Jew and Gentile. Jewish Christians are free to be united with Gentile Christians in the Body of Christ. And, sure enough, just as Peter wakes from his vision, emissaries from a Roman centurion named Cornelius, a Gentile, arrive inviting Peter to preach the gospel under Cornelius’ roof to his entire household. And the mission to the Gentiles is under way.

So far this is all standard New Testament theology.

But if you’re a revisionist activist devoted to normalizing homosexual behavior in the church, Acts 10 isn’t a moving account of the gracious and merciful hand of God extending salvation to the Gentiles - it’s a threat that must be neutralized.

Acts 10 is a threat because it directly undercuts the shellfish argument. When confronted by an angry Episcopal bishop saying something like: “If you oppose same sex marriage because the bible says it’s a sin, you’d better not eat shrimp” all you have to say is: “Acts 10.” Granted it might take the bishop some time to figure out that you’re referencing a passage from the New Testament and not a scene from the latest broadway musical, but once he gets it you’ll have him/her stumped. 

The threat of Acts 10 and the fact that Al Mohler’s piece was published on CNN’s popular “Belief Blog” is why Nicholas Knisely over at the Lead is so anxious to direct his readers to this blog post by “Slacktivist” Fred Clark.

Before going on, let me just say “Slacktivist” is an awesome name for a blog. I wish I’d thought of it myself. But it’s not a great blog name for Fred’s blog since it so aptly describes the effort that he put into his exegesis.

Here’s the key section of Fred’s response to Al Mohler:

“...while popular, this view utterly contradicts Peter’s own interpretation of his vision. If Mohler is right, then Peter was wrong. If Peter was right, then Mohler is wrong.

For Peter, his rooftop vision wasn’t about kosher dietary laws — it was about people. He says this explicitly: “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

That’s a very different conclusion from the one Mohler draws. Mohler says this story — this scripture — is about purity laws. Peter says this story is about God’s commandment that no people should be excluded as impure.

I’m going to have to side with Peter on this one. Peter was right. Mohler is wrong.

Mohler’s case for his interpretation of Peter’s vision only looks plausible if you extract a tiny portion of the story from the rest of the chapter, but if you read all of Acts 10, you’ll see that the story doesn’t allow that.”

So here’s what Fred wants to do. Fred wants to set Peter’s recognition that the holiness code no longer stands between Jew and Gentile because God has made all things clean in Jesus against the vision in which Peter was told that God has made all things clean. The “tiny portion” of Acts 10 that Fred wants us not to pay attention to is the vision itself - the part where God declares the unclean animals clean; the part where God sets aside the first to establish the second (Hebrews 10:9). The holiness code is the reason Peter would not have gone to Cornelius’ house before the vision. The removal of that code is precisely what leads him to say yes and go with his visitors.

Like most revisionist activists the Slacktivist is a selective reader. He loves the part where Peter affirms that (in Fred’s words) “no people should be excluded as impure” because he thinks that orthodox Christians believe that homosexual people are “impure” but the part about the removal of holiness code is terribly inconvenient so he simply pretends that the obvious connection between the two isn’t there and trusts that his readers have as much interest in actually reading the bible for themselves as episcopal bishops do.

And he’s probably right.


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30 comments

“Granted it might take the bishop some time to figure out that you’re referencing a passage from the New Testament and not a scene from the latest broadway musical, but once he gets it you’ll have him/her stumped.”

Fabulous!!

[1] Posted by Jeffersonian on 5-23-2012 at 07:01 PM · [top]

I’m going to have to side with Mohler on this one. Peter was right. Fred is wrong.

[2] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 5-23-2012 at 07:56 PM · [top]

Also worth contrasting Mark 7:19 “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean” vs Mark 10:6 “God made them male and female”.

[3] Posted by Andrew W on 5-23-2012 at 08:26 PM · [top]

Hey, it’s not just in TEC that some parishioners have little desire to read the Bible. I have a relative by marriage who is a vestry member of another mainline Protestant denomination. This relative thinks folks opposing gay marriage are heartless bigots devoted to a construction of the Bible accepted only by other heartless bigots.

[4] Posted by sophy0075 on 5-23-2012 at 08:41 PM · [top]

I think Mohler has it wrong. 

The laws about shellfish only ever applied to Jews.  The Pentateuch makes it clear that foreigners among them were exempt (though explicitly stating that foreigners werre not exempt from sexual misconduct laws). 

Acts 15 is the important text here, not Acts 10: some members of the church wanted to extend the shellfish laws to the Gentiles, something scripture never did.  The church met and decided not to change what the Bible said: the laws did not apply to the Gentiles.

St. Peter’s experience was important for him, a Jew, but irrelevant for me, a Gentile, because those laws never applied to me.

If we falsely suggest that Acts 10 supercedes an OT law, we are admitting that at least some of the OT laws were really culturo-temporal, and were only in force for a limited time.  That falsely weakens our ability to counter liberal initiatives to declare that the sexual purity laws were culturo-temporal, and were only in force for a limited time.

[5] Posted by Michael D on 5-23-2012 at 10:31 PM · [top]

The Pentateuch makes it clear that foreigners among them were exempt (though explicitly stating that foreigners werre not exempt from sexual misconduct laws). 

Michael, could you flesh out that argument a little more please? Any chance of pointing us to the specific texts you have in mind?

[6] Posted by David Ould on 5-23-2012 at 11:48 PM · [top]

Acts 15 is the important text here, not Acts 10: some members of the church wanted to extend the shellfish laws to the Gentiles, something scripture never did.  The church met and decided not to change what the Bible said: the laws did not apply to the Gentiles.”

But that doesn’t deal with the fact that God in Acts 10 declares a *change*. That is why Acts 10 is important, as Mohler points out.  God shows Peter various unclean animals, and then states: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This is in a context of Peter having been given a clear command to violate mosaic law, and demurring on the basis that this would make him unclean. In other words, God is saying that He has now made a change to the mosaic covenant. 

Even if you are correct that the Apostles in Acts 15 are only applying the Old Testament as it had always been understood (which I am not convinced of, but lets assume it for the sake of the debate), that doesn’t change the fact that God tells Peter in Acts 10 that at least some parts of the Mosaic law no longer apply to Peter, a jew.

[7] Posted by MichaelA on 5-24-2012 at 02:51 AM · [top]

Paul makes a similar point in 1 Corinthians 9:19-20: “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.”

Now Paul of course had always been Jewish in the fullest sense, since the 8th day of his life. But his point is that after Christ’s coming he was no longer bound by the Mosaic law.  He continued to conform to it because he chose to do so (for the sake of his ministry), not because he was any longer obliged to do so.

Paul expounds this further in Galatians 3:23-29:

“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.  So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Peter also understood this, and in Galatians 2:14 Paul used this point to convince Peter that he could not require obedience to part of Jewish law when Peter (quite rightly) was no longer obeying all of it himself:

“When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas 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?”

[8] Posted by MichaelA on 5-24-2012 at 02:59 AM · [top]

Hi Michael D

Acts 15 is the important text here, not Acts 10…” absolutely incorrect. Both are vital but you could not have the decision of Acts 15 without Acts 10…the entire question before the church in Acts 10 is - what is necessary for Gentiles to become inheritors of the fullness of the promises to Abraham. It is true that Gentiles had been exempt from the law before…but neither were they considered full heirs of Abraham. Gentiles were forbidden to go into the temple courts, they ate things and did things that removed them from the full enjoyment of the Promises and presence of God.

The church recognized that since Messiah had come it was time to draw in the nations…but how to do that? How do Gentiles become co-heirs? Some argued that they must do what gentiles had always had to do - take on the fullness of the law, be circumcised, follow the ceremonial law as well as the moral law.

Peter’s vision and the subsequent faith of Cornelius and the indwelling of the Spirit demonstrated that God would pour out his Spirit on the Gentiles apart from the law. God settled the question in Acts 10…the Church formally recognized God’s decree in chapter 15.

[9] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-24-2012 at 04:52 AM · [top]

Glad you posted this Matt. I would like to add that:

1. In verses 34-35 of chapter 10 it says “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”” God “accepts” those men who “fear him and do what is right.” Thus God still distinguishes between people as far as who he accepts. The change that occurred was in the need to distinguish between clean and unclean as far as the holiness code is concerned. It was not the case that God no longer held people to any standard whatsoever.

2. In chapter 11 the objections to Peter’s going to Cornelius’ house was as follows: “the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”” (verses 2-3) So their objections were based on violations of the “holiness code” and thus point to the significance of the change in that code that Peter is about to tell them about.

I’ll put it this way. If Acts chapter 10 makes sex outside of the marriage of 1 man and 1 woman ok, then why not just say it removed ALL of the law? Thus its ok to kill, lie, steal, covet, blaspheme etc. From reading the New Testament its obvious that Christ still holds us to a standard and expects us to promote and follow that standard. The wonderful thing is, when we fail to meet that standard and recognize that we fail and believe on his saving work and repent, our sins are washed away.

[10] Posted by Robert Lundy on 5-24-2012 at 07:34 AM · [top]

Also, for Anglicans, anyone who reads and takes seriously the Thirty-Nine Articles knows:

“Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral. -Art. VII

[11] Posted by Ecclesiastes 1:18 on 5-24-2012 at 08:23 AM · [top]

hi Matt and Robert,
It seems to me that Acts 10 only claims to describe a special dispensation that God gave Peter, because obviously Peter could not minister to and evangelize the gentiles without going into their homes.  I don’t see any language there that explicitly extends any “freedom” to all Jews, and certainly not to all gentiles, who already had the freedom to eat that food.

Acts 10 does affirm the extension of salvation to the Gentiles - that was the “change” MichaelA, not a change in the law.

I don’t see Acts 10 discussing what is “necessary for Gentiles to become inheritors of the fullness of the promises” - other passages such as the debate about curcumcision and the Council of Jerusalem focus on that, but not Acts 10Acts 10 affirms that Gentiles can become inheritors of the fullness of the promises, and that surprises some jews, but Acts 10 does not discuss the requirements.

[12] Posted by Michael D on 5-24-2012 at 09:32 AM · [top]

Michael D. When you read Acts 15 you will see that the argument made there hinges on what happens as the result of Acts 10.

That the Jews required gentiles to be cirumcised and follow the ceremonial laws before considering them full inheritors of the Promises of Abraham is not even debateable.

The question at the heart of Acts 15 is the very same…can gentiles be saved apart from the law. You see the argument articulated by the Judaizers in the very first verse. Verses 6 through 11 of chapter 15 depend wholly on what God did in Acts 10.

Your argument…that gentiles were never made to follow the law in the OT…is true but irrelevant to the question being debated in Acts 15.

The reason gentiles were not made to follow the law is because they were not considered part of the elect - they were outside the promises.

That changes in Acts. They are now coming into the family of Abraham.

To bring them in, what has to be done? the Judaisers had one answer, Paul, Peter and James another. The reason Peter, Paul and James won out is precisely because of what God did in Acts 10.

[13] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-24-2012 at 09:40 AM · [top]

Sorry for the off-topic comment, but gee-whiz.  This picture is not user-friendly or kind to the Stand Firm audience Now you’ve got all of us craving crawfish, and corn on the cob, but I’m thousands of miles away from the Bayou and have no hope of getting either any time soon.  CRUEL I SAY.  VERY CRUEL!  (LOL!)

[14] Posted by Karen B. on 5-24-2012 at 11:12 AM · [top]

“It seems to me that Acts 10 only claims to describe a special dispensation that God gave Peter, because obviously Peter could not minister to and evangelize the gentiles without going into their homes.  I don’t see any language there that explicitly extends any “freedom” to all Jews, and certainly not to all gentiles, who already had the freedom to eat that food.”

On the contrary:  In Acts 15:7-11, Peter explicitly relates God’s vision and command in Acts 10 to the issue before the Council, which was an argument that gentile believers “must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses” (note Acts15:6).  In the light of this passage, it is not possible to restrict Acts 10 to only a special dispensation, nor applied only to the issue of Peter entering gentile houses.

Also, it is incorrect to saythat gentiles “already had the freedom to eat that food” - they only had that freedom under the Mosaic covenant if they were NOT part of God’s people. If they wanted to become part of God’s people then they had to observe the rules.

“St. Peter’s experience was important for him, a Jew, but irrelevant for me, a Gentile, because those laws never applied to me.”

Actually, they did. If you had lived in Old Testament times, God required that you become a Jew and follow the dietary laws etc in order to be one of his people. The reason they have never applied to you now is because you have lived your entire life after Peter’s vision (or, more correctly, after Jesus’ incarnation - Acts 10 and 15 are merely making explicit what was actually accomplished by Christ’s work in fulfilling the law).

Acts 10 affirms that Gentiles can become inheritors of the fullness of the promises”

Of course it does.  But Acts 15:7-11 shows us that Acts 10 also makes a change to the Mosaic law.

“I don’t see any language there that explicitly extends any “freedom” to all Jews…”

You should; its right there. God commands Peter to kill and eat unclean animals. Nowhere is it suggested that this is a symbolic command. And in Acts 15:7-11, Peter applyies it as releasing him and all Christians from the obligation to keep the whole of the Mosaic law.

“If we falsely suggest that Acts 10 supercedes an OT law, we are admitting that at least some of the OT laws were really culturo-temporal, and were only in force for a limited time.”

No, we are not.  You are not taking account of the fact that Peter is given a direct command from God himself.  There’s nothing “culturo-temporal” about it; rather, God steps in and says, “Peter, the laws about uncleanness are finished”.  God is entitled to repeal his own laws.

“That falsely weakens our ability to counter liberal initiatives to declare that the sexual purity laws were culturo-temporal, and were only in force for a limited time.”

You needn’t worry, because we are dealing with a direct command from God, not obsolescence through elapse of time.

[15] Posted by MichaelA on 5-24-2012 at 11:16 AM · [top]

Forgive my ignorance (and lack of time/attention) but why focuss on Acts?  Why not the Gospels (Mark noted above and Matthew 15)?

[16] Posted by Nikolaus on 5-24-2012 at 01:42 PM · [top]

You’ll notice in Mark 7 (which I did link in my article) and in Matt 15 that Jesus’ teaching was, effectually, an undoing of the law…but his disciples likely did not see it as such until perhaps after Peter’s vision. Mark’s comment is parenthetical not a direct quote. So Acts 10 is where many focus not because Jesus teaching is not authoritative but because it is where his teaching in Mark 7, made effective at the cross, was made plain to the church in the person of Peter.

[17] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-24-2012 at 02:01 PM · [top]

I kind of cringe when I hear that Jesus teaching undid the Law. I don’t believe that was the case. Matthew 5:17-19: ““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. For truly I tell you, 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. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly 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.” Jesus completes the law and expresses the higher ideal of the law. His teaching on adultery in vv27-28 demonstrates that the idea of sin is more than the act; lust is also coveting what is bound to another. It was the same idea he challenged the pharisees on, following the letter of the law but neglecting the matters of the heart (i.e. missing the bigger picture). The same with Acts 10. Mosaic laws always had conditions for inclusion for gentiles. There were rituals and lifestyle changes required to bring them into fellowship with limitations on participation. The vision given Peter is showing that the conditions were met in Christ and the true extension of including the foreigner in God’s work is the end result. As far as the food argument, asking I gentiles to follow dietary laws is again returning to the small picture while neglecting the larger picture. The argument that liberal theologians this verse (Acts 10) to declare open sexuality is absurd. They might as well declare that man no longer needs “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Wait… they’ve done that, right?

[18] Posted by Festivus on 5-24-2012 at 02:31 PM · [top]

Hi Festivus

“I kind of cringe when I hear that Jesus teaching undid the Law.”

I think its pretty obvious from the context of not only that post but the entire argument here that I did not mean “undoing” in the sense that you seem to take it.

What I meant was that in Mark7 Jesus was declaring that the law was no longer applicable to his followers on the basis of his coming sacrifice which is precisely what I said in #17 here…

“So Acts 10 is where many focus not because Jesus teaching is not authoritative but because it is where his teaching in Mark 7, made effective at the cross, was made plain to the church in the person of Peter.”

Jesus blood sacrifice makes clean all that the law had declared unclean and he thereby fulfilled the law.

[19] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-24-2012 at 03:02 PM · [top]

TY Matt. Just took it as written; misunderstanding is mine.

[20] Posted by Festivus on 5-24-2012 at 03:32 PM · [top]

Good points from Matt and Festivus: Jesus does not abolish the law, but fulfills it. Hence it is no longer necessary (or at least, not in the same sense that it was necessary to Old Testament Israel). It has been superseded, just as the Abrahamic promises before it have been superseded, yet both have been fulfilled:

“Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. ... What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the [Abrahamic] covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. ... Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred [Christ] had come. ... Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.  So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.  Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. ...  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” [Galatians 3:15, 17, 19, 23-25, 29]

[21] Posted by MichaelA on 5-24-2012 at 04:16 PM · [top]

Well, my brothers and sisters, I wish I had more time to dig into this, but I don’t. So let me focus on the core point that bothers me, best summed up perhaps in MichaelA’s comment:

>> If you had lived in Old Testament times, God required that you become a Jew and follow the dietary laws etc in order to be one of his people.

I disagree entirely: God declared the Jews to be his people. Period.  There was no membership test.  In fact they failed again and again to keep the commandments(Peter even refers to this in Acts 15:10) but yet God still called them His people.  So I would rephrase one of Matt’s comments as follows:

>> To bring them in, what has to be done? the Judaisers had one answer [“be cirumcised and follow the ceremonial laws”], but Paul, Peter and James another. The reason Peter, Paul and James won out is precisely because [God never required even the Jews to follow his law in order to be his people].

Thus, in guiding the Council of Jerusalem to not place the gentiles under the Jewish law, a) God was not changing the formal law (which had always exempted the gentiles) and b) God was not changing the requirements for being in his kingdom (obedience to the law had never been a requirement for that).

God was doing a lot of other things, but he was not changing the law.

[22] Posted by Michael D on 5-24-2012 at 04:58 PM · [top]

Interestingly, there is an Old Testament type of the ruling of Acts 15 in Genesis nine.  It’s on this side of the flood.  There, the Lord gives Noah permit to eat all animals, but not with the blood.  There’s no specific reference to idolatry, but that’s pretty clear, given we’ve just been flooded by the One Lord.  Then, there’s the immediate passage involving some form of sexual immorality between Ham and Noah.  Jews have often spoken of these standards as a “Noah-tic Covenant” that the Lord has with all people—the very kind of thing Paul talks about in Romans one.  Which is to say, what happens in Acts is prefigured in Genesis.  What happens in Acts is not the abolition of the Law, but its fulfillment. 

On a somewhat tangental note, when I was still in TEC, Luke Timothy Johnson did our clergy retreat on Acts.  He started with some ridiculous philosophical assumptions about every moment being totally “new.”  You know the rest.  I asked him about Noah, and he blew it off.  Of course.

[23] Posted by Theron Walker✙ on 5-24-2012 at 06:26 PM · [top]

“I disagree entirely: God declared the Jews to be his people. Period.  There was no membership test.”

MichaelD, in turn, I disagree entirely with you. It does not appear that you have read the Old Testament.  There were several “membership tests” and one of them was keeping the law.

“In fact they failed again and again to keep the commandments”

Which does not in the least contradict my point that in order to be a Jew in the Old Testament you were obliged to keep the commandments of the Law.

“but yet God still called them His people [after they disobeyed the Law]”

No, he didn’t. Sure, God gave them plenty of chances and warnings, but that does not change the fact that the inevitable consequence of disobeying his law was rejection by God:

“When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes[a] and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.” [Deut 30:1-3]

“If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors.” [Deut 7:12]

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse — the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known ” [Deut 11:26-28]

“So I would rephrase one of Matt’s comments as follows:”

Yes, but incorrectly.

“God was not changing the formal law (which had always exempted the gentiles)”

Indeed it had, because they were not God’s people. However, if they became God’s people, then they had to obey his laws, as occurred with Abram, Rahab and Ruth.

“God was not changing the requirements for being in his kingdom (obedience to the law had never been a requirement for that)”

Since “kingdom” can have several meanings, this is a conveniently vague statement!

“God was doing a lot of other things, but he was not changing the law.”

That depends on what you mean by “change”. Again, you are quite vague, given the manner in which others have set out their position in significant depth.  If you are suggesting that God did not “change” the law in the sense set out in Galatians 3, Matthew 5, 1 Corinthians 9 or Acts 15 (all expounded above) then I have to disagree with you.

[24] Posted by MichaelA on 5-24-2012 at 06:48 PM · [top]

Ah, MichaelA, you can’t put “God gave them plenty of chances and warnings” and “the inevitable consequence ” in the same sentence.  They explode each other.

[25] Posted by Michael D on 5-24-2012 at 09:20 PM · [top]

Hi Michael D,

“you can’t put “God gave them plenty of chances and warnings” and “the inevitable consequence ” in the same sentence. “

Really? What an odd thing to say considering parents do this with children all the time.

[26] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-24-2012 at 09:33 PM · [top]

Maybe I’m interpreting “inevitable” incorrectly?

Doesn’t it mean “unavoidable”?

Doesn’t “plenty of chances and warnings” mean “avoidable” though admittedly risky?

[27] Posted by Michael D on 5-25-2012 at 05:35 AM · [top]

Ah, it is morning now and it seems we were quarrelling rather than understanding.

I understand Matt and MichaelA’s points better than my comments suggest.

I just think that the Judaifiers were wrong in their understanding of the law, rather than God changing the law.  Their error was in thinking that it was ever the case that only by conforming to the law could the gentiles be saved. Even Abraham was saved by faith (Gal 3:6).

[28] Posted by Michael D on 5-25-2012 at 05:48 AM · [top]

“I just think that the Judaifiers were wrong in their understanding of the law, rather than God changing the law.  Their error was in thinking that it was ever the case that only by conforming to the law could the gentiles be saved. Even Abraham was saved by faith (Gal 3:6)”.”

They are two separate issues. Yes, salvation is only by faith, in the Old Testament as well as the New. Abraham was saved on the same basis that we are saved.

But that doesn’t deny the fact that the Law had a different function under the Old Testament to what it has under the New.  The change was effected by Jesus coming and sacrificing himself to fulfil the law.

The effect of the change is that God’s people are no longer “under the law” (1 Cor 9:20), and no longer have the Law as their “guardian” (Gal 3:24-25).

[29] Posted by MichaelA on 5-25-2012 at 08:10 AM · [top]

Cool.  I like that answer, MichaelA
Thanks

[30] Posted by Michael D on 5-25-2012 at 12:37 PM · [top]

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