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Are You a New Testament Christian? – Part 3

In the past two posts, I have been endeavoring to show how the Law of God - while mostly shunned by the Church - is still relevant to New Testament believers. And, because it's been increasingly neglected by the Church, I posit that there has been an erosive and devastating effect upon all of the chief institutions which God has ordained - The Church, The Family, and The State.

God's Law, as practiced in the Old Testament was a physical and overt practice of God's requirements. I've been asserting that in the New Testament, those practices have simply morphed into their spiritual and higher realities. Let me give you an example.

In Deuteronomy 6:8, the Lord God exhorts His ancient people to memorize and live by God's word. His people were to cherish and adore God and were to transmit this precious gift from generation to generation. As a reminder, they were to "bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead." The Jews took this commandment serious - so serious, that they placed straps around their forearms and boxes for their foreheads (which contained a small parchment of Scripture) and walked around with straps on their arms and boxes on their heads. I don't mean to make light of this, but is this what God intended? Well, I think we find the inner and true meaning of God's commandment in verse 6 - "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart." The commandment to deeply love God and His word with the totality of one's being (as the Shema of Israel ordered in verses 4-5) was to be a deep inner reality - not an outward display of one's devotion. As Dr. Merrill notes,

"In the psychology of the Old Testament the heart is not the center of emotional life and response but the seat of the intellect or rational side of humankind. To “be upon the heart” is to be in one’s constant, conscious reflection."

Can you see how these external symbols were only emblems of a deeper reality and deeper requirement?

The two most objected functions of the Law for Christians are the ceremonial and civil functions. As I've noted, because the ceremonial function is limitedly seen as fulfilled at the Cross, it is rejected as still applicable and the civil function with its obvious judicial requirements is also rejected and limited only to Israel since Israel was a theocracy. Therefore, generally, only the moral function is given weight by the Church. Yet, the obvious implication that eludes believers is that these three functions are inextricably tied together as they come from the same source - God. As such, not only can they not be untied, but they must not be untied for - as I have been asserting - the Law is a reflection of His holy character and being.

One of the primary tenants of Christian theology is the simplicity of God. By this is meant that God is not compounded. He is not made up of parts that can be added or removed, rather, God is one. He is one in essence, being, power, eternality, and character. Of this attribute, Dr. Boyce notes:

"In ascribing simplicity to God, therefore, we declare that his nature is so purely or simply one as not to be compounded of separate substances, as matter and spirit, or even of the same substance, in different forms, or of a substance with separable attributes; and we assert that even his attributes are one with his essence, and that he is not only essentially spiritual, but also essentially wise, and good, and holy, and just, and true, and almighty, and omnipotent."

Therefore, removing or ignoring functions of the Law - which represents the fullness of His character and nature - is akin to breaking apart God.

The Civil Function

When we condense the Law of God as found in Matt.23:23, Micah 6:8, and Deut. 30:16,

we find a key requisite for all mankind (and especially His people) in the civil function - justice. When we think about this word, it generally evokes images of courtrooms and lawyers and usually...conflict. Certainly, in today's world, the word has been expanded to include many things whether racial justice or social justice, or economic justice, but is this what God means by justice?

In Matt. 23:23, we note that Jesus says that the functions of the Law are "weightier provisions". Justice is a weighty matter but why? I believe it's because of what justice implies - love. When we "do justice" as noted in Micah, God is commanding that people deal fairly with others in whatever matter and, in so doing, we express love. We don't try to cheat someone of what's rightly theirs or, as in the case of race, we are not to rob people of dignity because of their race or ethnic background. Instead, we are to ascribe dignity to all people for they are made in God's image - an image that is rightly theirs - an inherent right given by the Creator. And, if given by the Creator, who are we to deprive people of the worth God has so aptly given? Does this ring familiar? It should. This same notion is found in what I call "the theology of the Declaration of Independence."

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..."

This notion of justice embodying love is not limited to the Old Testament, but is found in all of the New Testament's "one another" and in it's royal summation to, "love your neighbor as your self". It is no wonder that it is said that the heart of the Law is mercy (compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm) for love is its antecedent and its driving force for how else are we to make sense of God's mercy if not that He loved first.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:16-17

Indulge me for a moment of digression. I had the privilege of serving the Lord in a biblical worldview small group study called The Engagement Project. This small group series is an effective tool for believers to learn how to love and engage people with the love of Christ. Obviously, I strongly endorse it.

Finally, if we consider the civil function in the aforementioned manner, would we still conclude that it was no longer binding on the Church? I think not.


Merrill, Eugene H. Deuteronomy. Vol. 4. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994. Print. The New American Commentary.

Boyce, James P. Abstract of Systematic Theology. Founders Press, 1887.


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