Do Christians Selectively Apply Scripture?

I’ve had the privilege of speaking with a lot of people regarding Christianity. By far, one of the most frequent objections I hear is the alleged double-standard when it comes to following rules from the Bible. The typical argument goes something like this: “The Old Testament says we should be stoning homosexuals, yet you, Christian, don’t believe in that. Why do you pick and choose different parts of the Bible to follow? Why the inconsistency?” It’s never an honest question, usually just an argument they don’t expect you to answer.

Is this what is really we do, however? Do Christians only selectively grant authority to whatever meets their fancy – ignoring commands they find barbarous or offensive, yet embracing ones they like? The answer, boiled down to a mere generality, is no. Valid theological reasons exist to explain why some of God’s ordinances are observed, but others are not.

In the Old Testament, there were essentially three different types of laws, if you will, delivered by God to the people of ancient Israel. While very much intertwined, the laws transcribed into the first five books of the Bible can be thought as being divided into three categories. Together, they governed the totality of ancient Jewish life.

The first of these categories would be the realm of Jewish Ceremonial Law. These ordinances dictated how, when, and where the tenets of Judaism were to be practiced. Take for example Numbers 5:4-5:

He who brings his offering shall offer to the LORD a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil; and you shall offer with the burnt offering, or for the sacrifice, a quarter of a hin of wine for the drink offering for each lamb. (ESV)

This passage told the Jews how to properly execute one of the types of sacrificial offerings. This passage is one of dozens just like it that govern ritual cleanliness, purity, diet, and the behavior of both laymen and priests.

So why don’t Christians make such sacrifices today? Why do Christians disregard laws that tell us not to eat shellfish because they are considered unclean? The simple reason behind this is that by default, Christians are not held liable by the Law. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus was meant to be the ultimate fulfillment of the Jewish ceremonial system. He was the lamb that was slain, once and for all – the Ultimate Sacrifice. With this, the need for rituals and sacrifices has been abolished, making it so Jewish Ceremonial laws do not apply to Christians today.

In addition to ceremonial laws that outlined religious rituals and practices, Jewish Civil law governed society and regulated legal aspects of Jewish life. These laws, for example, described how to divide land, what to do with captured enemy soldiers, how to punish a thief, among others. Any kind of legal or criminal dispute would be examined in light of Jewish Civil laws.

Many like to point out the civil laws that demand the stoning of adulterers. I will further expound on these in a moment. First, however, I would like to explain why Christians are not obligated to follow the Jewish Civil laws. Christians do not adhere to these laws because God only meant them to be applied to a specific people in a specific time: the Israelites of Ancient Israel. Since the Ancient Kingdom of Israel is not a country anymore, these dictates are obsolete and no longer applicable.

What about the seemingly harsh laws against homosexuality? Let me first pretext this question with the observation that the prescribed OT punishment against homosexuality also applied to every other type of sexual sin – be that adultery, incest, sex before marriage, or bestiality. Homosexuals were in no way singled out, with other sexual sins being given a pass. It wasn’t that way at all.

Regardless, these punishments do seem unabashedly strict to the modern mind. A crucial piece of information is missing though – the fact that we all deserve the punishment of death for our sins. God told the prophet Ezekiel that the “soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, ESV). Because of the sins that we have committed against a most High and Holy God, He should have us executed. Did you know that even one lie is enough to warrant the death penalty from God? Or one lustful thought? Or one time of taking the Lord’s name in vain? You see, according to the Bible, even the smallest sin is an infinite offense against an infinite God. With this in mind, the fact God allows human beings to live at all – that He doesn’t crush us this very moment and deliver the justice He is rightfully entitled to – is a testament to His lovingkindness.

Besides the two types of Old Testament Law that Christians are not obligated to follow today, there is a third that Christians still observe. That category is the set of laws in the Old Testament that are collectively thought of as moral laws. These are the commands against lying, blaspheming, greed, adultery, idolatry, theivery, and so on. They can be summed up quite effectively in the Ten Commandments, given in Exodus 20.

While Christians have been freed from the curse of the Law (Galations 3:13), a truly born-again believer will endeavor to follow these commands out of love and gratitude. Jesus said that those who love Him will keep his commandments (John 14:15). Christians will strive to do exactly this.

Additionally, none of the Ceremonial or Civil laws are reiterated in the New Testament, but the Moral laws are. With the exception of the directive to observe the Sabbath, all of the Ten Commandments are repeated. It would therefore be fair to assume that God expects Christians to keep His Moral Law, but not necessarily the other Old Testament laws.

The fact is, Christians don’t merely pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe. We believe in all of it. While we are not bound by the 600-plus laws given in the Old Testament, we gladly adhere to some of them.

Newsweek Mangles the Truth

Next week, Newsweek Magazine will feature this brilliant piece by renowned theologian Lisa Miller. Let the below excerpt from this precious gem of truth be a blessing in your life:

Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion,” says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

Sorry Ms. Miller, you are really going to have to do better than that. No one who reads Scripture at face value (you know, how you’re supposed to read it) is going to be taken in by cherry picked, out-of-context Bible verses and fuzzy feelings.

Despite three pages of faulty arguments, the author ultimately fails to address one critical point: the Bible very clearly and plainly condemns homosexuality in numerous places. There is no way to negate this straightforward fact. Even if one disregards the Old Testament, which many theological liberals like to do, the New Testament warns its readers that those who practice the sin of homosexuality will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

The truths contained in Scripture can’t be sugarcoated to make them go down easier. God tells us that a person who practices sin of any kind is worthy of death in eternal Hell. This includes not only homosexuality, but also lust, hatred, adultery, fornication, murder, thievery, lying, cheating, blasphemy, idolatry, and many others. These are God’s laws given from Him to us, and the person who breaks even one of them will have to stand before Him in righteous and holy judgement. The only hope that person will have lies in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ will allow one be considered righteous in the sight of the God, worthy of His Kingdom. Only with Jesus Christ as an advocate before the Father can a condemned criminal go free.

HT: WorldNetDaily

Paul Washer Mocks the Contemporary “gospel”

HT: SliceofLaodicea

The Rest that Only Christ can Offer

Over at Possessing the Treasure, Mike Ratliff writes:

Hell is real. All who do not repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will spend eternity there. Those who repent and believe are those who ‘come to Jesus to drink.’ They believe as the Holy Spirit is poured out on them to the point that their lives are taken over by Him. Those who do will never experience hell. Instead, they come to Jesus and find rest for their souls. Those who do this are poor in spirit. They mourn for their sins. They are not proud, but meek. In their growing godliness they hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness to become manifest in them. They become more and more Christlike, therefore, they take on His character. They show mercy as He does. They become more and more pure of heart. They remove themselves from seeking their own. Instead, they become those who live to bring others to their Lord. Conversely, this holy and separate life does not cause them to find peace in the world. No, instead they are persecuted for righteousness sake.

Well worth the read.

Manly Men

It may be a little late for Father’s Day, but “Mandles” still make a manly present for any manly man in your life:

All satire aside, what does it mean to be a man today? Differing viewpoints offer competing answers, and it would seem that any true definition of “manliness” finds itself deeply layered in controversy. Which is the correct one, however?

Commonly portrayed in contemporary movies and television shows is the first type of male: the soft and feminized man. In touch with his “feminine side”, he is passive, non-confrontational, and often just plain “nice”. For fear of offending, he never speaks up or voices his own concerns. His own opinions are secondary to those of everyone else. He is timid to lead and often willingly submits himself to the domineering authority of a strong female figure.

For the better part of 40 years, the American culture has been breeding men of this fashion. Raised by women, they are virtually women themselves. Dad was nowhere near to offer his stabilizing influence. If that weren’t enough, millions of youth have been bombarded with the endless stream of messages reinforcing this mentality. Furthermore, they are told that opening doors for women is sexist and that any 95-pound woman can beat up a man three times her size. Men and women are no different, so distinguishing male traits must be categorically removed (mind you, female characteristics are okay to leave in place). The ultimate result of this is a sort of androgynous person, who in all but biology is neither male nor female.

In a gross and over reactive backlash, a second type of “man” has boisterously reasserted himself. This is the type of man the video I’ve posted tongue-in-cheek makes fun of: the “manly man”. As the hunter of wild boar, elephants, and great white sharks, nothing fazes this towering man-beast of raw power and courage. He climbs mountains and manages to plant 100+ pound fire-hydrants at their summits. He’s capable of bench pressing a semi. I’m exaggerating, of course. However, the push for men to be “manly” in this sense is almost as strong as it is for men to be feminized. The backlash is just that powerful.

Before I became a Christian, I avidly listened to radio host Tom Leykis. I am deliberately choosing not to link to his website because I am that disgusted with him now. In his routine tirades against “sissy” men (I will not employ the same crude term he used), he advocated men treat everyone around them like they were trash. Men are supposed to be rude, condescending, arrogant, and uncaring towards anyone but themselves. In doing so, any man following this advice becomes a “real man”. Incidentally, Mr. Leykis instructs his listeners that this is the behavior that will win over women. Anyone not embracing these ideals remains a wimp of a man, not worthy of the least amount of respect.

Which one of these types is the “right” one? Do any alternatives exist? Fortunately, one does: the Biblical definition of manhood. I should note that entire books have been written on what the Bible says about how men should be and act, so my hope is that this post will at least do a little justice to the topic.

Dozens of qualities mark the Biblical man. Foremost, he is to be humble. Colossians 3:12 says, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (NASB). This humility simultaneously represents counting oneself as lesser than others and unquestioningly submitting to God’s will. We are to acknowledge our complete dependence on Him for all things and put aside the desires of our selfish flesh. Men are to be humble before others and even more humble before God.

In a similar fashion, God calls men to be meek. In Galatians 5:23, Paul tells us that meekness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 11:29 that He is “meek and lowly in heart” (KJV). The Greek word for “meek” is more modernly translated as “gentle”. Today, this word is usually understood to imply a form of weakness. In some sense of the word this is correct (as God represents our true strength), but ultimately gentleness or meekness refers to a power that is brought under control. Not only is this the exercise of self-restraint when offended or hurt, but also of a compassionate heart towards those who are weaker physically, spiritually, and emotionally. In this form meekness is a strength, not a liability, and is the exact opposite of the kind of haughty, prideful attitude which places the self before all.

Being meek requires self-control, which is another quality that God desires men would have. Self-control is quite simply the act of denying oneself for the sake of God and others. After Jesus fed the five thousand, he spoke these words: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NASB). The true meaning of this expression is lost on many today. The cross was a brutal and grisly form of execution reserved only for society’s worst criminals. Jesus was instructing His listeners that one must die to themselves daily. In a practical sense, this means turning aside drunkenness, anger, lust, sensuality, pride, sorcery, idolatry, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21). It also means willingly sacrificing of oneself for the benefit of others, which Jesus ultimately demonstrated Himself when He submitted to death by crucifixion.

Besides exercising self-control, God calls men to be unabashed speakers of truth, which sharply contrasts with today’s soft and post-modern culture. This does not simply mean not lying or telling falsehoods, but rather being unafraid to speak the truths of God (2 Timothy 4:2). This is to be done boldly and without shame. The defenders of God’s truth are also made to be “good servant(s) of Christ Jesus,” because of what they do (1 Timothy 4:6, NASB). In an age where boldness and straight-forward speaking are unacceptable vices, real men speak the truth in love, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

In what may seem to many an even more dangerous character flaw, the Bible requires that men love others as they love themselves. This is not some sort of superficial love based on warm and fuzzy feelings, but rather a self-sacrificial love. What God calls for is both a choice and an action, and this love places the needs of another above the needs of oneself. Even a man’s enemies are to be beneficiaries.

Perhaps the one of greatest ways to demonstrate this aspect of Christianity is in marriage. The Apostle Paul, specifically, commands that husbands are to hold their wives in such high regard that they love her as Christ loves the Church. Ephesians 5:25 reads, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” A man is to love his wife like he loves his own body, since indeed the Church is part of the body of Christ (Ephesians 5:28-32). How does a man treat his own body? With the greatest amount of care, not withholding any necessity. No one has ever hated his own body.

The second part of Ephesians 5:25 further highlights the profound task given to husbands: complete self-sacrifice for the benefit of the wife, even to the point of suffering and death. Indeed, this is precisely what Jesus did: die for his “bride”, the Church. However, self-sacrifice does not just mean being ready to give up one’s life for another; it means a willing servitude in all aspects of life. Christ says of Himself in Mark 10:45 that the “Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (NASB). Since the man plays the role of Christ in the marriage, the husband is to adopt the same servant mindset.

The second and almost-as-important duty of a true man of God is leadership, most specifically in the home. As Christ is the head of the Church, the husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23). He is in no way greater or more valuable than his wife, but God has placed the man in ultimate authority over the matters of the home. He is to exercise that authority with love and gentleness.

The authority God has given the husband is never to be abused and represents a loving and serving form of leadership. Jesus never took advantage of His authority over the Church, but rather used His authority for the benefit of those He loves. In marriage the husband is to lead his wife the same way. God does not want husbands to domineer their authority and strength over their wives but rather to protect, nurture, provide for, and serve them. 

The wife is not merely the cooker, the cleaner, and the partner in bed – she represents the Church, whom Christ desires to sanctify and bless. She does not exist to serve the husband, but rather he is to serve her by giving of himself for her benefit.  She is to be cherished above any other person, save Christ Himself. Her needs are paramount, and the man in marriage is to meet them without hesitation.  That is what being a man in the context of marriage is about.

In a timeless fashion, the Bible advocates a different kind of man than what is purveyed by today’s society. He is strong, but gentle; tough, but tender; both a leader and a servant of others. Above all, he is humble before God and willingly submits to His desires. In contrast, modern culture has horribly skewed the ideas of manhood and masculinity. Only through the reading of Scripture and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit can men be men.