Love Without Law

Love is Love graffiti

All You Need Is Love. It’s the title of a classic Beatles song, but it’s also more or less what Jesus said when a religious teacher asked him what was the greatest commandment in the Law. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself, Christ answered. “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22:40).

In other words, if we could only understand what love for God and love for our neighbor means, we could safely throw out all the rest of the commands of Scripture and just love. It’s not unreasonable to ask, in light of Jesus’ own words, why God didn’t edit the Bible down to a single page with the admonition “Love Yahweh and everyone else” embossed on the front and maybe a few Psalms on the back.

Perhaps more than any other part of the Bible, the book of Judges helps to answer that question.

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What Should Observing the Sabbath Look Like? (Part 5)

Church

In the past few weeks, as we have studied what the Bible says about the Sabbath, we have seen the importance of the Sabbath in the Old Testament, and that it was more than a ceremonial “shadow” which would pass away with the advent of Christ; that it was a moral law with lasting significance, deeply rooted in God’s heavenly rest and redemptive work. Therefore, it was no surprise that the Sabbath continued for the first-century church in the form of the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, Sunday.

Finally, last week’s article considered some obvious objections to the idea that the Fourth Commandment still applies to New Testament Christians. We finished up that examination with Paul’s exhortation in Romans 14, “The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord,” a declaration which raises the obvious question: How should we “observe the day” in 21st-century America?

To answer that question, we must take one last survey of what the Bible has to say about the Sabbath…

Read moreWhat Should Observing the Sabbath Look Like? (Part 5)

A New Testament Sabbath? But What About…? (Part 4)

Church

My last article on the Sabbath laid out the reasons for believing that the Old Testament Sabbath was transformed by Christ into the Lord’s Day of the New Testament—still a day for worship and rest, filled with the content of the Sabbath but now occupying the first day of the week. In this penultimate article in my series on the Sabbath, I will consider a few verses which might seem to disagree with that conclusion.

Colossians 2:16-17: A Passing Shadow?

Perhaps the most obvious passage which seems to teach that Old Testament Sabbath commands have no relevance for the Christian is Colossians 2:16-17, which says, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” It certainly sounds like Paul is declaring that the Sabbath is entirely an Old Testament thing, a shadow which has passed away in the light of Christ. But first glances may be deceiving.

Read moreA New Testament Sabbath? But What About…? (Part 4)

The Sabbath in the New Testament (Part 3)

Church

Last week’s article on the Sabbath examined how other parts of the Old Testament law were maintained, discarded, or modified in the New Testament. We saw that the Sabbath’s unique combination of moral and ceremonial elements gives us reason to expect it to remain relevant for New Testament Christians, though with changes that reflect Christ’s atoning work. But what does the New Testament actually say about the Sabbath?

The Sabbath in Jesus’ Life and Teaching

In keeping with the Old Testament’s intense interest in the Sabbath, Jesus devoted more time to teaching about the Fourth Commandment, through both word and example, than to any other commandment. In general, when the Gospels record Jesus speaking about Old Testament law he is clearing away misunderstandings of it, and the Sabbath is no different.

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What Sort of Law Is the Sabbath? (Part 2)

Church

What, if anything, does the Old Testament Sabbath hold for New Testament Christians? Last week, I started a short series looking at what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath and its place in our lives today. That first article laid the groundwork for our study by examining the Sabbath in the Old Testament. We saw that the first recorded Sabbath was inaugurated by God as soon as the Israelites left Egypt. Soon after, Sabbath observance was the fourth commandment given by God at Mount Sinai and became an important marker of his people. In later generations, the prophets would urgently call Israel to faithfully observe the Lord’s day of rest and worship.

The Ten Commandments are repeated twice in the Pentateuch. In Exodus, God links the Sabbath with his rest after the six days of creation, which was itself a representation of the perfect and joyful rest which he enjoys in Heaven and into which he invites us. In Deuteronomy, the Sabbath is associated with God’s redemptive work, bringing his people out of slavery in Egypt. The Israelites were to enter into the Sabbath with the joy of freed slaves savoring a hint of Heaven.

Having surveyed the Sabbath in the Old Testament, the obvious next step is to examine what the New Testament has to say about the Sabbath’s place under the new covenant which Jesus inaugurated. But first, I want to pause to consider what we might expect the New Testament to say.

Read moreWhat Sort of Law Is the Sabbath? (Part 2)

This Election Would Matter Less If We Respected the Law More

The Constitution

On both the left and the right, the 2016 election is promising to be the most intense, passionate, and fearful in recent memory—which is saying something, because the sense of potential catastrophe and dangerously high stakes seems to grow with each new election. Every four years, both sides dread the possibility that the other will get hold of the levers of presidential power, with their potential to massively shape economics, immigration, education, foreign policy, the courts, and a thousand other things. It feels as if we have quadrennial mini-revolutions, as conservatives and liberals skirmish over who gets to set the course for our nation.

To some extent, this political tension and conflict are an unfortunate byproduct of democracy. No system is perfect, and democracy’s regular elections stir up partisanship and politicization in a way that a more authoritarian system (for all its other faults) would not. But our fraught elections aren’t just the fruit of democracy; they are what happens when a democracy forgets the importance of the rule of law.

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