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Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Atonement

The Atonement

Introduction:

What do you say when a Christian brother (or sister) says to you that as Christians... since we're no longer under the law... we can therefore do what ever we want?

Or, what do you say when another follower of Christ says something to you along the lines of... “Well, that was under the OT... We're under the NT...”

Possibly you've heard Christians claim that the law no longer has any claim upon those who believe in Christ...

Under any of these circumstances, did you ever have the urge to respond... “Yes... but...” When You heard these believers say these things... was there a troubling in your spirit?

...That what they said was correct... but the way they said it... tipped you off that something just didn't seem right?

If so... you may have been practicing true spiritual discernment. What I mean is... that it's one thing to practice “discernment”... and know the difference between right teaching and wrong teaching

...To be able to see the difference between right doctrine and wrong doctrine...

But it's entirely different... and an exercise of true spiritual discernment... to be able to discern the difference between right doctrine... and what's almost right doctrine.

You see... right doctrine is right. It can't be wrong because it's right. Almost right doctrine though is actually wrong doctrine.

For instance... if you have a glass of water. It's water... right? But if you add something to it, such as tea... then it's no long water, but tea... Add Kool Aid and it becomes whatever flavor Kool Aid you added...

So, if you have correct doctrine... and add just a touch of incorrect doctrine... what you now have is no longer correct, but incorrect...

Gal 5:9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (see also 1Cor 5:6)

* * * * * * * * * * * *

So, what does all this have to do with Christians and the law of God? We're not under the law anymore... right? Afterall... the Bible is clear...

Rom 7:6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

Gal 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

And you're right... we, as Christians, are no longer held accountable to the law in regards to our salvation... But, does that mean that we can just rip the NT out of the Bible and throw away the OT?

When someone makes the claim of being a NT Christian... that's exactly what they're saying... and this kind of thinking is dangerous...
The teaching that Christians are no longer under the “weight” of the “curse” of the law is correct and right out of the Bible (Gal 3:13). And it's is also true that Christians are no longer under the “condemnation” of the law.

But remember... true spiritual discernment is being able to distinguish between what's true... and what's almost true...

There is a spirit out there called... Antinomianism. And what antinomianism does is deny the validity of Gods moral laws.

There has grown up within the church such a “spirit of antinomianism”, that we have to be constantly on our guard against it...

The feeling is growing within the church at large that “since we're no longer under the law”... then I can do pretty much anything I want and suffer no repercussions for it.

The theme song of the modern evangelical has become...

Free from the law
Oh blessed condition
I can sin all I want
And still have remission!

And all of us struggle with these questions concerning the law. We know that in one sense, it still applies to the Christian, because afterall, the law says... Thou shalt not kill... And we all know within... that this still applies.

Our stuggle is to figure out what still applies... and what doesn't. That which is still in force... and to what degree is it still in force?

Do we divorce ourselves from everything OT? If we hang on to the OT... will we fall into the trap of the Judaizing heresy that threatened the early Church?

Can we ever truly respond in our hearts with the psalmist... “Oh how I love Thy law!” (Psalm 119:97, 113, 163, 165)

We want to do what's right, and what God has commanded us to do... Not because we like following rules... Or, because we like the limitations placed upon us by God's law...

But because we love the Law Giver!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

In order to answer these questions we have to understand that the Bible presents to us three types of law in the OT... Natural laws (Moral laws) and Civil laws and Ceremonial laws.

Natural (Moral) laws are those laws that God gives to His people that are based upon His eternal and immutable character.

These are those laws we find in the Bible... that if He were to ever repeal them at some later date... it'd be a repudiation... or a repeal... of His own holy character.

For example... God said in... Exo 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before Me.

Do we now suppose... that as Christians, and no longer bound by the law... that it's okay for us to start worshipping Baal? Some other god?

Can we now pay homage to... or give service to... an idol?

Can you see that if God were to repeal of this law, it would necessitate a complete change of God's character?

That if God were to repeal this command... He'd be repealing His own holy nature? He would have had to undergo some sort of mutation of His eternal perfection?

In the same manner, we are still to obey the commands against lying... stealing... adultery... honoring our parents... Aren't we?

We are still supposed to “...love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deu 6:5)

Can you see then... that there are certain laws that God has given to man that will remain in force as long as there are people?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Now... the other type of laws that we find in the OT... the Civil laws and Ceremonial laws... are no longer binding upon us. Some Theologians have grouped together and called them... Voluntary Laws... And this is because these are specific laws that God “voluntarily” gave to His People which were given at a certain time and for a certain reason

Civil laws are those laws given to Israel that guided them in their daily life and conduct in society.

These laws could be closely tied to the Moral laws... so that where the Moral law says “Thou shalt not kill”... the Civil law would outline the response to the breaking of that Moral law...

Death ... Justification... City of Refuge...

But because our society and cultures are so different from ancient Israel... these Civil laws are no longer binding in practice...

Though many of the principles behind them still have application for us today... and may even be a part of our own current laws.

The Ceremonial laws are those laws that were given to Israel that governed their form of worship. These laws pointed toward the coming Redeemer... and now that the Redeemer has come... they are no longer necessary for the Christian.

Matter-of-fact... the Christian who continues the practices of the Ceremonial law is actually insulting the Redeemer, since He came and fulfilled those laws. (It'd be similar to slapping Him in the face and saying that His fulfillment wasn't good enough.)

These are laws that God chose to give to His People in the OT that would be in effect for a given period of time.

Like with the dietary laws... those things that were unclean in the past are now declared to be okay for us to eat now. Changing the dietary law has nothing to do with the eternal character of God...

So, whether I chose to eat pork or not doesn't require a change in who God is! It has nothing to do with His holiness... and it was given for a season and a particular purpose.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Now... it's almost universally agreed among most Christian Theologians that the Decalogue (the 10 Commandments) fall under the Moral law of God and are still binding upon Christians today...

There is some debate concerning one of these... but I'll leave debate on that for another day...

The real debate though, involves those laws that follow the 10 Commandments.

Now, the Commandments (as found in the 10 Commandments and elsewhere)... as you're probably aware... are “absolutes”... and are generally articulated with... “Thou shalt...” or “Thou shalt not...”

The other laws we find in the OT are considered “case” law and are normally articulated with the “if/then” construction...

“… If your bull gores your neighbor's donkey... then...”

In Exodus 20... we see the absolute, moral laws of God dictated to us in the form of the 10 Commandments...

But in Exodus 21, we see the case law take over the narrative... This chapter begins what some theologians have called the “Holiness Code

...Those laws that the Jews had to follow to be a holy disciple of God...

And though they no longer strictly apply to us as Christian's... they still hold much value to us today...

So, let's look at Exodus 21:1-2...
* * * * * * * * * * * *

Wow... let's read that again...

You know... if there's anything that's Politically Incorrect to do in America today... it's to have discussions concerning the purchase of slaves...

But here we read in the Bible... The very first article of legislation in the Holiness Code has to do with the purchase of a slave!

Now, this conjures up images in our imaginations of pictures we've seen and things we've read in history books of the slavery that was practiced in Europe and America...

Well... you need to get rid of that picture... because that's not what we're talking about here.

The form of slavery that you have pictured in your mind... that was practiced in Europe and America... is actually “man stealing”... which was absolutely forbidden in the Bible.

This is where traders and sailors would go to Africa or some other less developed country and capture innocent people out of villages... throw them into chains... cast them into a hold of a ship... and ship them to Europe and America to sell on an auction block.

They became property and lost all rights as human beings...

Exodus 21:16

The practice we're reading about here, in verses 1 & 2, is actually an “indentured servant”. This type of servitude was usually brought about because of “economic” reasons, and it only ran for a specific length of time.

For instance... If I went to (insert name here) and borrowed a sum of money from him, or purchased something from him... and when it came time to repay that money, I couldn't...

I could then go into a contractural agreement with (insert name here) that would give him my services for a length of time... in this case, up to 6 years to work off the debt... then at the end of this period, the 7th year... I'd go free.

If (insert name) got his money back in my services during that 6 years... great!

If not... then, tough... I still go free. Simple, and makes sense... doesn't it.

Now let's look at verse 3...

We still have no problem here... do we? If the debtor goes into servanthood alone... he comes out alone.

If he goes into servanthood with a wife... he comes out with a wife.

Most of us... maybe none of us... would have any problems with any of this so far...

The problem lies ahead... in verse 4...

Now what's this all about? If he comes in alone and the master gave the servant a wife at some point during his servitude... when the 7th year comes around, the servant can go... but the wife stays behind!

And what's even worse... if that wife bore the servant children... they have to stay behind too!

It seems really harsh, doesn't it?!? This really goes against our ideas of familial relationships... doesn't it.

It appears that the Bible is teaching us that it's right and proper to break up families...

But let's look at this a little closer... the scripture says... “If his master have given him a wife...”

The master gave her to him... he didn't go out and get her on his own... He couldn't... because he couldn't afford to...

He is a servant because he's paying off a debt. That's why master gave her to him...

The master took all the financial and economic responsibility in the matter and gave the man a wife.

He has decided that he would take the added responsibility upon himself and give his servant a wife.

So, when it came time for the servant to leave... the master still had that financial responsibility.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Now, it used to be a practice in this country... and some young men still do this...

That when a young man wants to marry a girl... there was a custom of going to the father to ask for her hand in marriage.

Any of you who are father's can think of a couple of questions you'd ask this young man... can't you...

Do you love her?” “How are you going to support her?”

And during the times we're speaking of... here in the OT... they had similar practices...

The culture of the day required that the husband be able to show his financial ability to support a wife by paying a “bride price”... or a “dowry” as we would think of it today.

But the servant who's leaving servanthood... has no way of supporting a wife and children...

The master who gave her to him took the responsibility upon himself to financially care for her... When the servant leaves... the master still has that responsibility!

Now, can the servant get his wife back? Absolutely! After he leaves, he can work and save up money and go back to the master and pay the bride price... and receive his family again...

The whole dynamic behind the story of Jacob... Laban... Leah... and Rachel... was all about this principle...

Remember how Jacob had to work for 7 years for Rachel... was deceived by Laban... then had to work another 7 years?

It's all about paying the bride price!

So here... in the Holiness Code... is the idea of the redemption of a bride held back... whose release can only come when the husband purchases her...

When he returns and pays the bride price.

Does this speak to you about anything in the NT?

Is this simply some archaic... or arcane legislation that has no meaning for us today?

What do you think when the apostle means when he says in 1Co 6:20 & 7:23 that we were “bought at a price”?

When the apostle Paul... in opening many of his letters... doesn't go into an outline of his pedigree... or his seminary degrees or other qualifications... but refers to himself with his favorite self designation as a “duolos” of the Lord Jesus Christ... – a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Why did he consider himself as a slave?

Do you think it's because he realized that his life had been purchased... redeemed by the Master?

That the Master didn't simply purchase him... but the Master purchased... redeemed His Bride?

It's not by accident that the NT church is called the Bride of Christ...

We are the “ecclesia” – those who were called out for a specific purpose...

We're the “kuriakon” – those belonging to the Kurios...the Lord

The church is made up of those who are the possession of the Lord!

He purchased us... He redeemed us... He bought us out of slavery...

Because He paid the bride price...

And the bride price that He paid... was in blood.

Can you see now... that this seemingly barbarious practice in the ancient world... was God providing legislation at a particular place... for a particular time... for a particular season... as part of His Voluntary law so that He wouldn't have to repeal... abdicate... or negotiate the Natural law of His Holiness?

And by His blood payment... I have been bought... You have been bought... and paid for...

And Christ looks upon you now as His Beloved...

And He's taken upon Himself the duty and the obligation to care for you forever... and to present you to His Father without spot, wrinkle, or blemish...

At the cross... God didn't wink at our sins... He didn't negotiate our sins... He redeemed us from our sins...

By paying the bride price!

His justice has been satisfied... The debt has been paid... His mercy has been displayed...

And we are His Bride.


Invitation...