Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Love ... and Holiness of the Father

As a young Christian, I had questions about the meaning and purpose of the Old Testament. Now I realize that my questions were really about the way I heard the Old Testament being used. I have determined I enjoy the Old Testament even as I hear many of my contemporary Christian brethren questioning  its meaning and purpose. The problem, of course, is that God appears angry and vindictive to them in the Old as compared to loving and compassionate in the New Testament. The solution to reconciling these is to realize that as Christians, we read and live in the meaning of the New Testament. The Old gives insight and understanding into deeper truth, but none of these insights cancel or alter the New Testament reality.

Do not read the OT as if it was intended as the source of commands in the spiritual walk with God. One and two hundred years ago, the OT and specifically the Ten Commandments were regularly held up as commands for the Christian here in America. So much so, that a legalism persisted in the church which on multiple levels permeated and shaped the social order. I believe this has brought much harm to the gospel message and has often skewed understanding faith for individuals, whole families, and the church at large.

In making the above assertion, I do not suggest that God is not a holy God, nor that “holiness” should be abandoned as a goal of being a believer in the Living Christ. In fact, His holiness is the point of this post.

There is certainly a place for reading and understanding the OT. It is wise to read it. However, we do not live by it, and that is where many go astray. The OT is often used as a proof text for perspectives or actions. Is it wrong to do so? That depends, I would say, on what one is trying to prove!

1 Corinthians 10: 6-11 reads, “6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY." 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”

Paul has used examples of idolatry, immorality, presumption and complaining to illustrate specifically what those actions look like and to remind the readers of God’s attitude to those behaviors. He does so to warn us about acting on our cravings, but He never states, “Beware, the Lord will do the same to you!” The OT does show God enacting punishments on men, both the children of Israel and their enemies. However, the NT does not give any reason to believe that God so acts under the new covenant of faith. Rather, it specifically says something different. We live under the Truth of Jesus as revealed by Him when He walked on the earth. We know of the atonement through the crucifixion (an understanding developed using the OT example of sacrifice in the altar), and we have been renewed to spiritual birth and life based upon and revealed by faith in the resurrection of our Lord. 

In John 3: 17 we read, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  And in John 12: 47 & 48, "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”

I believe God’s loving-kindness and compassion is the basis for the coming of His Son. In the OT, we see examples of His position on the sin nature and human behaviors of depravity and hatefulness. However, we live by and trust in the NT revelation of God’s plan of redemption, which is offered to all of humanity. Based on what Jesus taught, judgment is that comparison between our choices and actions held up against the words Jesus brought to us. 

I think post-modern Christianity wants to focus wholly on the feel-good aspect of God's love. His love is unlimited, wondrous, and beyond all that we might think or imagine, of course! Yet, if we limit the character of God to simply His great love, we not only do Him an injustice, we fool ourselves based on our own limited desire to have God be as we imagine Him. To wholly focus on God's love can begin to deny His Holiness, and that is a serious error! Love which offers us grace to enter into His presence--when we are depraved and base beyond what we will admit--was never intended to blind us from the fullness of His holy character. Rather, that love and grace enables us to embrace something totally foreign to our fallen natures, the Divine Nature -- pure and just beyond all that we can think of or imagine, as well!

Read the OT and do not be put off by the actions of the Lord there. Neither embrace it for the law it records! Consider it carefully, looking for the way in which it reveals the heart of God and foreshadows the life of Jesus and His teachings. Where it clearly is a history of the law of God ruling over people, their failure to respond, and the Lord addressing their failure, read and learn. However, it is not our mandate or the way the Lord responds to us.  Always recognize the new covenant of faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus as a spiritual paradigm that began with God’s response to the faith of Abraham. 

That paradigm counted righteousness based on a condition of faith in Abrahan, and so now it is counted the same towards us. It is a paradigm developed across time, and the paradigm went through the Law period producing the OT record.  This record of the period of law is used to help us see and understand the fullness of what the Lord has done for us. Under the law, the Lord sanctioned actions  motivated by an intent to reveal the wonder of His justice, yes, and this justice intended to lift us into His holiness. All for the purpose of having us be able to receive His love. The OT is a blessing that brings to full light the wonder of the life in the spirit which is the fulfillment of the covenant given to Abraham. A fulfillment of that promise is now upon us living at the end of the age of man. We live by faith in Jesus and in Him we move and have our being.We live in His love, and the wonder of His holiness and justice, as well.


careyrowland said...

Our life on earth works out better for all parties when we don't steal from one another, nor kill, nor sleep with each other's spouses. And its appropriate also to forbid lying, since it throws confusion into a worldly situation that is hard enough to figure out even when everybody's telling the truth.
Things work out pretty well, too, for young folks when they respect their parents.
Also helpful is loving God the mostest instead of anything else, and setting aside, once a week or so, time to rest and reflect on God's mercy and grace to us, thanks to Jesus.
Last but not least, people tend to do better in this life when they show respect,in what they say and what they do, for God, and also for each other.

ded said...


And if I just love God, honestly love Him, and worship Him fully for His beauty, truth, justice, and love; and if I love my neighbor, honestly love him or her, for his or her value as a simple human being, therein shall I find both the inspiration and the direction to do all that you have said.

Edith said...

But that only works if you have belief in god whom seems to have little proof to exist. It is a manmade figure like santa clause or the easter bunny. I think the answer to ones way of life lies within ourselves.

ded said...

Thanks for commenting! I really enjoy the interaction with others. Since the reality of my belief is His Presence within me, then we are agreed: the answer lies within.