Christianity 201

January 24, 2017

Was Jesus Spinning Moses’ Law?

This week’s sermon contained a verse I had never noticed before. Using modern terminology, some would argue that the writer of Hebrews is saying that Jesus spins the law different.

(NLT) Hebrews 7:12 And if the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it.

(The Voice) Hebrews 7:12 because when there is a change in the priesthood there must be a corresponding change in the law as well.

(NCV) Hebrews 7:12 And when a different kind of priest comes, the law must be changed, too.

Hebrews is a difficult book on the best of days but this verse really arrested me as I looked at it. After checking StudyLight.com and GodVine.com — both of which reprint material from some classic commentaries — I decided to go with Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason Ministries, an excellent apologetics organization. (Greg’s new book The Story of Reality has just released this month; more info at Zondervan.com.)

Today you have a choice; you can read the commentary on this verse by clicking the title below as usual, or you can click through and watch and listen to Greg’s answer on video. (I encourage you to watch the video version.)

What Does “Change of the Law” in Hebrews 7:12 Mean?

Does Jesus change the law? Here, we are referring to the Mosaic Law. The verse says, “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” What it sounds like initially is that Jesus is tinkering with Moses. Moses gives the law, and then Jesus comes in and begins to tinker with it. There do seem to be some occasions where that happens. In the Gospels, Jesus means to clarify and give a deeper insight. That is certainly not what’s going on in this particular case, however. Something else entirely is going on. There’s not a tinkering with the Mosaic Law, there is an exchange of law systems.

We’re going to employ a rule that we emphasize at Stand to Reason all the time. It’s called, “never read a Bible verse.” If you’re going to try to figure out the meaning of a verse, it is not enough to read one verse. You have to read a paragraph or more. Instead of just reading verse 12, you might start with the first verse of the chapter.

In verse 1, there is a discussion about Abraham and a man named Melchizedek who is a priest of the Most High God. Abraham has not yet had Levi, who is to be the head of the priesthood. Abraham gives honor to Melchizedek, showing that Levi, in a sense, is honoring Melchizedek. Therefore, Melchizedek’s priesthood is greater than the Levitical priesthood because the lesser gives homage to the greater. That’s the set up for the verse in question.

In verse 11, the Mosaic Law has Levi and the priests making provision for sin. The writer says that if that were adequate for perfection, what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek? The writer is arguing that Jesus is a priest, but not a Levitical priest. He was born in the line of Judah. He represents a different more unique priesthood. A priesthood like Melchizedek. So he asks, “If perfection had been attainable, what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” There’s our verse.

Do you see how that verse sounds different once we have more context? Never read a Bible verse without the context. What the writer of Hebrews is talking about is not tinkering within the Mosaic Law, but a change of law systems. There was law grounded in sacrifices that make men temporarily acceptable before God through the line of Levi, but that isn’t permanent. We need a different system. Jesus is the priest of that different system. He’s the new covenant, not the old covenant. The old covenant is temporary. It was just holding over until the new covenant came. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins.

The writer of Hebrews says Jesus brings in a new system. He’s the only one, and He makes perfect those who are sanctified and set aside under that particular system.

The following verse says, “For the one of whom these things are spoken belong to another tribe from which no one has ever served at the alter. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.” Yes, there’s a change in law, not a tinkering or adjustment of the Mosaic Law, but a putting aside of the entire system because this was just a picture of the perfect priesthood Jesus would provide after the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus is here now, therefore the old system is set aside. That is a central theme in the book of Hebrews, and that is what is being referred to in Hebrews 7:12

 

August 31, 2011

Christians and Capital Punishment

A couple of days ago I mentioned that if you’re really processing your faith at the “201” level, you’re going to have to have a “take” on certain issues that some might consider peripheral. I think the example was creation science. But what about something like capital punishment? Again, the tendency is to say, “Look, Paul, you started this blog to avoid getting into the kind of issues you deal with at Thinking Out Loud. This space is supposedly reserved for Christ-centered Bible exposition and discussion.”

Absolutely right. But Christ needs to inform all areas of our life and thoughts. Better yet, Christ will inform just about any subject that comes up for discussion. So with that in mind, let’s look at Christ in the case of a justice issue  taking place concurrent with His earthly ministry, and see how He responded. This is from Woodland Hills pastor Greg Boyd at Christus Victor Ministries where it appeared under the title, Sinful Accusers and Capital Punishment.

 

May 4th, 2011

The Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman they had caught in the act of adultery (Jn 8:3-4; where was the guilty man?). They wanted to see how this increasingly popular, would-be Messiah, might respond. Their motive, of course, was to entrap Jesus (vs. 6). The law explicitly commanded that adulterers had be stoned to death (Lev 20:20; Deut 22:22). If Jesus agreed with this and had the lady stoned, it would likely get him in trouble with Roman authorities, for they alone had the right to try and carry out capital punishment. If Jesus disagreed with this, however, it would set him in explicit opposition with the Torah and justify the Jewish court trying him as a false teacher.

Displaying his signature genius, Jesus found a way to affirm the Torah in principle while undermining it in practice. “Let anyone who is without sin cast the first stone,” he said (vs. 7). In agreement with the Torah, Jesus affirmed that sinners like this woman deserve to be executed. Yet, he added, only a sinless person would be justified in carrying out this sentence. Since none of the woman’s accusers were sinless, they ended up dropping their stones and walking away.

Since all people are sinners, it seems to me that Jesus’ teaching in this episode applies not just to this particular accused sinner and to this group of sinful accusers, but to all accused sinners and to all sinful accusers. And if you think it through consistently, this entails that none of the Old Testament’s commands to carry out capital punishment should ever be acted on! Indeed, for followers of Jesus, it entails that no command to carry out capital punishment should ever be obeyed, regardless of where it is found or who it comes from.

The command itself may be just, but unless you are without sin, you’re not  justified putting it into practice.

Think about it, and have a blessed day!

~Greg Boyd