Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tim Keller's Explanation of Christian Consistency in Using Old Testament Law

Tim Keller writes a useful article on how Christians should use the Old Testament and why we don't adhere to all the "clean" laws in it.  What initially concerned me though is that he does see the change in how we live in the New Testament does differ as Disciples of Christ from the Old Testament.  When he states,
the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live
I do think it changes how we live.  Pastor Wade Burleson explains my idea:
The coming of Christ changes everything about the way we live. We are now people led by the Spirit, not people led by Law. We listen to the voice of Christ, and are no longer bound to ANY Law of the Old Covenant.  The Temple laws, the dietary laws, the Sabbath laws, the circumcision laws, the gender laws, the tithing laws, the hiearchial laws of authority, and all other laws of ancient Israel have been 'annihilated' by the death and resurrection of His Son (see Hebrews 10:9).  ( (Note: I actually don't like the word "annihilated" and would rather substitute the world "expanded" or "fulfilled" by Christ.) 
I believe Tim Keller unwittingly and unintentionally lessens the centrality of Christ as our lawgiver by not showing how the moral law is not separate or independent from Christ person and ministry as well as the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  We do live differently after the resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit to permanently indwell believers.  I just cannot get around that there is some discontinuity between the Old (Mosaic) Covenant and the New Covenant.

I know that I may be too picky here and he may agree with my concern that is left unstated fully, because he seems to be getting at the centrality of Christ for how we live in the following statement (I wished he would have unpacked how Christ and the Holy Spirit are the authority for us today rather than Moses):
Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us. In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live. The moral law is an outline of God’s own character—his integrity, love, and faithfulness. And so all the Old Testament says about loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, generosity with our possessions, social relationships, and commitment to our family is still in force. The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethic of the Old Testament is re-stated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-11.) If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.
In conclusion, let me affirm with Tim Keller that "we as Jesus' disciples don't pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey."   Why? Because under Christ, the gospel is not confined to a single nation—it has been released to go into all cultures and peoples.  Why? Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed. Why? Because of Christ the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties. It all falls into place.

Read: Old Testament Law and The Charge of Inconsistency

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