© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 3 – The Historical Emergence of the Church
Lesson 186 – Separation of the Church and Israel – What About Gentile Believers & the Law?
17 Jan 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
If you’ll turn in your notes to page 65, I’m going to continue this step in the separation of the church and Israel. If you’ll look at the end of the notes on page 71, figure 4, that’s kind of a summary of where we’ve been going and where we will be going to finish off this thing. I think next week we’ll be able to finish this separation stage, we’ve taken a long time to do it but that’s because it took a long time for the church to separate from Israel and we want to observe the process, and you’ll see step one, step two, step three, step four, step four is what we’re on now, we’ve gone through step two. That was when Stephen as a Diaspora Jew was the first man that we know of in church history to grasp the significance of the fact that whatever God was doing with the church harped back to the foundation prior to Israel, because remember his whole point in Acts 7 was that the first Jew, Abraham was called in a non-Jewish land. He said the law was given and Israel didn’t keep it, there was a pattern of dual deliverances, you always have two things, two events happen, Joseph and [can’t understand word], and then he dealt with the tabernacle and showed how the tabernacle was a tent exploding all over the place and when it did become a temple, Solomon clearly recognized that it wasn’t holy in itself, it shouldn’t be idolized.
That was step two and step three was how Cornelius and the Samaritans were accepted in the church and we know they were accepted in the church whether the human people accepted them, God accepted them, and God put a sign that He accepted the Samaritans and Gentiles in step three because what He did is He gave them a mini-Pentecost. So there was another reiteration, what happened in Acts 2 happened again in Acts 8 and Acts 10. Now we’re on step four, the Gentile’s official recognition and you’ll notice as you look at that diagram that the Holy Spirit led gradually. The revolutionary basis for the separation of the church and Israel had occurred right there at Pentecost. Nothing’s changed since Pentecost as far as the position was, but it took a long time for people to realize that that had happened. We’re going to work a little bit on step four and the official recognition.
On page 65 we have two diagrams of the before and after. I’m trying to show what the classical Old Testament pattern was, and what now is happening in Acts 15. The classical pattern was that a Gentile who wanted to come to God through Judaism had to identify with Judaism and he had to become a Jew, and through that he then could become partaker with the Jewish people and their worship. We have people doing that, we have Ruth; the whole story of Ruth is an example of a Gentile woman who becomes involved with Judaism, intermarries, and becomes part of the Jewish community. That’s straightforward, that’s Old Testament.
The issue in Acts 15 is whether Gentiles, when they come into the Kingdom - now that Pentecost has occurred—do Gentiles have to come through the conduit, through the tunnel of Judaism in order to get to the Kingdom, or are Gentiles able to walk through the door? Physically in the temple the Gentiles were not allowed inside a certain area. There was the court of the Gentiles outside. There was an enclave through which or into which a Gentile could not come, a barrier, and that barrier remained after Pentecost. If the temple is normative, then it follows that Gentiles do not have direct access. So Acts 15 is a very, very critical chapter because the church is trying to come to grips with what’s going on here. God’s work has got out ahead of where the people’s brains are. The church is not thinking, it hasn’t prepared for this. And Luke is just recording the long process of time it took for the church to get the big idea.
In Acts 15:6 the apostles and the elders come “together to look into this matter.” And in context, “this matter” in verse 6 is verses 4-5. What’s happened is that you have the people coming down, Paul and Barnabas, verse 2, and in verse 4 they arrive in Jerusalem. And it says “they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them.” So they’re getting a missionary report of what God had been doing. But verse 5; these people in verse 5 are believers. Notice what it says, “But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed,” so here are Pharisees who had believed, and they’re raising an issue. The issue they are raising here is that “it is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” If they are correct, then nothing has changed from the Old Testament, everything is the same, as the upper diagram on page 65. So Gentiles should become in Judaism, and if they’re male they had to be circumcised as far as becoming a Jew, a proselyte. So that diagram would hold.
Now the question is, is that really the case. In verse 7 it’s quite clear that there was much debate going on. This gives us an interesting principle about how the Holy Spirit leads. We often have the stereotype idea that the Holy Spirit leads by some mystical process. If there was ever an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to miraculously come down and write it on the handwriting on the wall to the apostles, it would have been here. I think it’s very illustrative to, as we observe this text, that God didn’t do that. That’s not how God led the church. There’s no miraculous leading here going on. If there’s anything miraculous it counted in verse 8-9 where they’re talking what God had already done prior to the discussion. But the Holy Spirit did not come down, lights didn’t go on, lights didn’t go off, handwriting didn’t happen on the wall, there was nothing like that in the early church. This is the early church, and when you hear these people talk about oh well, we’ve got to get the gift of prophecy like the early church had, well if there was an opportunity for the gift of prophecy to function here would have been a good time because you can see that the apostles are struggling with this thing and they’re trying to come to some sort of a conclusion. There’s no prophetic insight, there’s no miraculous revelation - these guys are left to meditate on what they know of the Word of God, even here, at the very foundation of the church. So this is something to watch.
In verse 9 the emphasis again is on the strength of the discussion. That’s how they worked these things out, they got together and they started reasoning from the Scriptures that they had, just like we do. That’s just like the rest of the Church Age, reason on the basis of the Scripture. In verse7 Peter’s address is starting and you notice verse 10, it’s a quite candid admission by Peter by saying look, you guys have to understand that we sin all the time, we Jews sin all the time, we have the Law, we can’t keep it. It’s like he’s talking to these Pharisees who think they’re two steps above everybody else because they know more Scripture and they have this rigorous standard. It’s nice to have standards but what Peter admits in verse 10 is they don’t keep the standards. He says what do you want to do, “put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke” and look at how he qualifies the word yoke, “a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” In other words, all the Jewish generations have never been able to keep the law. What do you guys want to do here? Clearly Peter is showing that the Mosaic Law never was successful in promoting obedience. This is not undercutting the content of the Law because Paul says the Law is good; this is not a faulting of the content of the Law. What it is is a faulting of human nature in response to the content of the Law. Peter says there’s got to be something else going on here.
Verse 11, “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they are also,” and verse 11 gives you insight into the early church and how it began to think its way through this. By realizing that the Gentiles are saved by grace, the Jews are saved by grace, neither the Jew nor the Gentile is ever saved by circumcision, they’ve never been saved by keeping the Law. So Peter says what’s your problem? If you’re not saved by keeping the Law, why has the Law got this standard? And if a guy is already saved and God accepts him, why don’t we accept him? Why do we through Judaism in as this intermediate door through which he has to walk after he’s already saved? It’s part of the thinking. Verses 10 and 11 are pretty insightful illumination as to the mind of the early church, and the godly people in the early church and how they thought. Verse 12, “And all the multitude kept silent….”
Now James is going to get up and what he basically does in verses 13-19 is that he makes the point that in the Old Testament it was clear that the kingdom of God was going to be opened someday to Gentiles. Going back all the way to Abraham, three things, a land, a seed, and a worldwide blessing; Israel’s reason in history for coming into existence was to be a worldwide blessing. So the idea of God saving Gentiles shocked a lot of the religious Jew but it shouldn’t have because they should have realized that they, as Jews, came into existence historically to be a channel of blessing to the world, and this is the blessing. So why are you guys fighting about it and objecting to it when all of sudden this is what we see. Jesus was a Jew, He wasn’t a Gentile, He was a Jew, and from Israel has come salvation.
The whole idea of the argument in verses 13-16 is back to this pattern thing again. The pattern of the Old Testament is blessing flows to the world through Jews, but it does flow outside of Israel. The glass just doesn’t sit there with water in it; the water keeps bubbling up and like a fountain it flows over to the rest of the world.
In verse 19 we come to the early decision by the church, and this is one of the first recorded times in which the church has come to a corporate judgment. This is one of the early ecumenical creeds if you want. “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles.” Notice how they keep calling it “trouble.” In verse 10, it’s trouble—why do we want to trouble the Gentiles? But in verses 20-21, as we said last time, the argument here, you have to watch the argument to catch the force of the argument. There’s a logic in the argument and it’s grasping that logic, that train of thinking that shows you what was on their mind and why Acts 15 says that the Mosaic Law does not apply to Gentiles.
In verse 20 they isolate a few things, they say “things contaminated by idols.” So the first of the four things, “things contaminated by idols” are physical, it’s probably food that’s dedicated to heathen deities that’s what’s meant by number one. Then it says “from fornication,” that could be in the general sense of fornication or it could refer to something that is very specific on his mind. We’ll skip that for a moment and go to the third one, “abstain from what is strangled and from blood.” The strangling and the blood have to do with meat, and the first one probably has to do with food. Now the question is, “What’s the fornication?” And since the others are part of the ceremonials, part of the rituals that the Jews did, it probably would be best to interpret the word “fornication” here to something in the ritual, something that was forbidden in the Mosaic Law to identify the Jew over and against everyone else. His kosher diet set him apart from everyone else, and what else set him apart was the way they married. In Leviticus 18 the word “fornication” is used there in the sense of forbidden marriages; there are certain kinds of forbidden marriages.
So that probably is what is meant here, but the important thing is the logic of it. Do you see anything about the Sabbath in verse 20? Do you see anything about tithing in verse 20? Do you see anything about loans of money and usury in verse 20? There’s nothing of that, the Law isn’t in verse 20. There are just a few summary things that he picks out that look to all the world like they’re social irritants. And sure enough, in verse 21, which begins with “For,” so by way of explanation verse 21 is an explanation of verse 20. So they say “For Moses from ancient generations has in very city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” And you wonder, wait a minute, if the Law was to be applied to the Gentiles what he should have said was because God… in verse 21 you’d expect “for God told Moses this is the way you should live.” But verse 21 doesn’t say that. It says the reason I tell you that the Gentiles should do this is because there are Jews around in the city. It looks like its social expediency that’s the argument here.
So apparently verse 20 is just an admonition to the Gentile believers to get along with the Jewish believers, just don’t keep doing things that irritate them. And these things really irritate Jews so just knock it off and let’s have some peace so we can have some Christian fellowship across the cultural boundary between Jew and Gentile. It’s to promote community among believers.
We had a discussion after class, and after we had that discussion I thought more about pages 65-66; I didn’t have time to rework this but I thought of something while we had that Q&A last week. For those of you who weren’t there, if somewhere in the margin you would write Law with a capital “L” and write law with a little “l” and we said that that’s a good tool, a good intellectual tool so that we say okay, here’s Law and here’s law. By Law with a capital “L” we’re referring to the Mosaic Law that didn’t exist prior to what book in the Bible and what chapter in the Bible did the Law Code first start? Exodus 19. There wasn’t any Law with a capital “L” prior to Exodus 19. So the Law extended from Exodus 19 on down to Jesus time. However the problem was that after 586 BC what physically was missing so that they couldn’t really follow the Law if they wanted to? The temple was gone. So the heyday of the Law was from about Exodus 19 to the end of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. So this is the period of the Law for all intents and purposes. Of course, remnants of this law came down to the time of the Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, pieces of the Law.
If the Law didn’t happen until Exodus 19, what do we do about Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Terah, Noah, Peleg, those guys had no law, were they all antinomians? Surely not. They had a known section of the will of God for them. Every generation has had law with a little “l” defined to be the will of God. The Law, capital “L” is the will of God too, but it’s the will of God for a nation that exists at a point in history, time/space history, it exists over a certain area of real estate in the Promised Land. So by distinguishing between Law and law we can get some tools in our heads to discuss this question about “what about the Law” and “what about Gentiles.” There’s always the will of God and the will of God is always the law. How do we know that? What if Paul, in his epistle he uses the word “law” and he uses it of New Testament. What does he say? The law of Christ. We’re not denying there’s law. In fact, if you took all the commands, and that’s what we want to do, a little exercise right now, you take all the commands of the Old Testament, so let’s go back to the Old Testament. We’re going to look at this, then we’re going to come to the New Testament and see how much of these laws get recapitulated in the New Testament.
Let’s go to Exodus and start in chapter 19. Let’s do a scan so we know what Law with a capital “L” is. God is going to speak to Moses on Mount Sinai. In verse 11, “let them be ready for the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.” You talk about putting the fear of God in people! This was one of the most astounding events to happen in the history of the human race. And the tragedy is that in our secular educational institutions, not only do the kids not even know about this, they’re not even taught to think that if this didn’t happen, if this didn’t happen, what’s the basis of any law. Think about our law in this country for just a moment. In the Declaration of Independence there’s a clause in there that everybody forgets. It says that men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Unalienable rights! What does an unalienable right mean? What does it mean to say something is unalienable? It can’t be taken away. Therefore does the state give law, does it give rights? Does the state government give a right? This is mind blowing to the average person that lives in America today. They are always talking about rights to this, rights to that, dogs and cats have rights and this has rights and the homosexuals have rights and somebody else has rights and the perverts that teach on the college campuses have rights. Everybody has rights except believers, the ACLU sees to that.
The rights that are unalienable by definition can’t come from government? Congress can go ahead, the House of Delegates in Annapolis can have all the sessions they want to, we can have constitutional conventions coming out the kazoo, but that does not change rights. The colonists had it down. The Christian theology influenced the politics of early America, and that’s why America had and is rapidly losing, had a free republic because number one, law was conceived properly as something emanating only from God. And all human legislation could do was just reflect those higher standards. The second thing was you had people in colonial America who learned leadership principles where? What was the institution that dominated the colonies prior to Congress? The churches. So guess where these guys got their leadership from? And in the churches what had they experienced? They had experienced that there was the Word of God, and we could have our little debates and fights and discussions and disputing and all the rest going on in the congregation, but finally there was a document that we had to refer to; this was our standard.
Do you see how that politically played out in this country? These guys intuitively looked around when this country started and what did they set as a founding doctrine? The Constitution. And they put flywheels in there so that it was hard to amend the things. It wasn’t a democracy, it was a republic, and the stabilizing influence was you had this Constitution sitting there that prevented people from voting stupidly, because their vote didn’t count. There are certain things in that Constitution that it doesn’t care who voted for it, it doesn’t count, your vote doesn’t count because we’re not a democracy, we’re a republic. That is a Christian influence on political thinking, mostly lost today of course.
In Exodus 19 God comes down and He gives the Law to the nation. As we studied when we went through this section of the Bible, the three functions of government are executive, legislative and judicial. Think about the Mosaic Law. Where’s the executive? The elders, Moses, Joshua; and the judiciary had courts, laws of evidence. Question: where was the legislature? No legislature in the Old Testament. Now what does that kind of tell you? It tells you of the three functions of government which one is the one that most closely represents God? It’s the Law, because it’s the Law that reflects the standards of the whole social system, and God did not permit Moses, Joshua, the priests or anybody else to make the Law. He made the Law, they carried it out. The Law was sacred. So that’s why He said, verse 12, “And you shall set bounds for the people….”
Moses went down from the mountain and he got everybody washed and cleaned up, and then verse 17 he brings the people to meet God. Verse 18, “Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.” Gosh wouldn’t that be a neat film, what was this like. All you can think of is Cecil B. DeMille’s cartooning of this, but I think it’s the best thing we’ve got going. Yul Brynner is Pharaoh and Charlton Heston is Moses, and when we see the real Moses we’ll say gee, you don’t look like Charlton Heston. Anyway, Mount Sinai is smoking and this voice comes out. And in Exodus 20 God gives the Ten Commandments. These commandments were given publicly. If you were there with a tape recorder, you would have taped these things in Hebrew. All the philosophers have problems, gosh, can human language communicate truth, I don’t think so; human language is so limited and it’s just ape-talk through evolution that’s developed and we can’t really trust language, and certainly we can’t trust language to express the incomprehensible things of God. Well how did God speak here?
It says in Exodus 20:1, “God spoke all these words, saying,” and He spoke them in Hebrew, no problem, everybody could hear this. With all due respect linguistic analysts, logical positivists or whoever, whatever the philosophical schools are, sorry, God went ahead and He spoke these words. You’ll notice that He says in verse 2, He identifies for this capital “L”, not little “l”, capital “L”, the will of God is for a people. So in verse 2 he says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Now “you” can’t be Gentiles, “you” are Jews. So the Law, capital “L” is given to Jews at this point in history. It wasn’t given to the Syrians, it wasn’t given to the Babylonians, [and] it wasn’t given to the Indians in India or the tribes of Africa or the Arabs in North Africa or the Europeans, our forefathers running around in Europe. None of that. I give this to you who I brought out of Egypt! Everybody can see verse 2 defines the people of the Law; no one else.
Verse 3, “You shall have no other gods before Me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children...  but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.  You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain,” it’s “YOUR God,” it’s the Jewish God “in vain.” Verse 8, Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy,” that’s not Sunday, it’s Saturday, the seventh day. Verse 9 “Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day” you will rest, a limit of a 48 hour, 60 hour week. And the pattern in verse 10 for the rest includes “your cattle;” it also includes the “sojourner,” the Gentile who could be with you, “who stays with you,” so the application was to Gentiles…, the labor laws of the time applied to everyone in the society even if they were Gentiles, but they applied to the Gentiles only because the Gentiles lived in that society. So you have labor laws.
Just look at the scope here. In verse 4 the first commandment deals with your reference point, your absolute total authority and reference point for a society, your law. That’s where, by the way, Islam, every heresy in history feeds on a weakness. And one of the weaknesses that breeds an environment for Islam is that Islam, if it does nothing else, recognizes that a society has to have one God and only one God. That’s why Islamic societies are so dogmatic and exclusivistic, because they insist on having a reference point for the society and if you have plurality you have basically a polytheism. So they really have an insight there. And in verse 4 there’s the true source of it, they’ve distorted it because they’ve got the wrong God, but in verse 4 for Israel they were to have no other gods because they could not have a confused final authority. You can’t have two final authorities, there can only be one final authority, and the final authority for this society is the God who created the society by bringing them out of Egypt.
He says in verse 5 that I am going to discipline you. So there is a society wide blessing and cursing that happens and it happens to the whole community. That’s why historically Jewish people have a better sense of community than most Gentiles. You don’t have to tell a Jewish person in France, in Germany, in Romania and these other places that they weren’t singled out, not because of their personality; they were singled out because they were Jewish, and whatever one Jew did, it immediately transferred to all the Jews. So they could be innocent, but they knew what it was to live and be identified as a Jew, they couldn’t help it, because I’m a Jew I’m going to be treated a certain way because there’s an identity, a Jewish identity. So what God says, you have an identity all right, you have an identity before Me, and what I’m going to do, I’m going to hold you responsible historically. Notice the discipline occurs to third and fourth generations. So this is talking, when you see the word “save” and “deliver” in Old Testament context, it’s not talking about heaven and hell, it’s talking about this life.
Verse 6, “showing lovingkindness to thousands,” in verses 5 and 6 you have an asymmetry in God. Notice that He visits iniquity to the third and fourth, and then He stops. But in verse 6, He shows it to the thousands of generations, “to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” There’s no stopping My blessings. The only thing that stops My blessings is when people sin. And then I’m giving them up to two or three generations, if they can’t make up their mind… the family who has a sin pattern that lasts more than three or four generations we’re going to cut it out of history, that family is damned, it’s got a pattern that it will not break, it will not listen to God, it will not be redeemed, so we’re going to get rid of it; three or four generations. You’ve got three or four generations to get your head straight, and then sorry.
That’s how they dealt with the so-called adolescence problem in the Law. If a kid couldn’t’ obey his parents by the time he became a young adult they killed him. “Ooh,” you say, “that’s so cruel.” Is it? God didn’t think so. You’d better be careful about inheriting these social judgments from the newspapers and the magazines and from some idiot ethics professor on a college campus somewhere. Oh, that’s so cruel and that’s abusive, in other words, you know more than God does. God said I will kill you, and I want your kids killed if they can’t accept authority, because you can’t have a society if people don’t accept authority and have respect for it.
So right here in the Ten Commandments, after the labor, notice by the way, in verse 8, in verse 9, what is it that prospers a society? You don’t have a mess like Afghanistan. You’ve got a whole generation of people in Afghanistan who haven’t produced anything - just a bunch of wild animals that have degenerated to the stone age, wandering around with AK-47s. Now an AK-47 isn’t going to bring food on the table, an AK-47 isn’t going to make the crop grow. AK-47s aren’t going to make a productive society. War doesn’t make productive societies. Work makes productive societies. And so the heart of a society that is productive is labor, people have to work, Genesis 3, Genesis 2, Genesis 1, subdue the earth. There’s the whole economic life of a society and in verses 9-10 God as part of the very moral core of His will for a nation is that He controls the labor. There are labor laws at the heart of the Ten Commandments. That’s what this is, it’s a limitation on labor such that, what do they have to do on the 7th day? Why do you suppose this labor law is structured the way it is? Why is it that it actually limits labor and rebukes anyone who works on the seventh day?
Let’s reverse it. If we were living then, why would we want to work on the seventh day? To make more money. Why would we want to make more money? Because our security depends on how much we earn? So what He did, He broke that to force people to realize that your dependence is Me, so what I’m going to do, I’m going to prohibit you from working the seventh day. I don’t care what your financial picture is; you’re not going to work on the seventh day. I’ll give you six days, you can solve your problem, if you can’t solve your problem, sorry, the seventh day—no! What that did is it forced everybody to say huh, I’ve got to rest and that means I’ve got to rely on whom? It can’t be me, because I’m not working on the seventh day, so He forced everybody into a faith-rest on a cycle of every seven, every seven days we got a lesson on how to rest.
See how this is so social, here’s the whole social ramification for a nation. This was addressed to a nation, not a church community, a national entity, a society. In verse 12 look at what is protected. As you look down the Ten Commandments sometime, stop reading these as religious things and start reading them as principles of nation-building, what a society needs to prosper. The very next thing after labor, it follows Genesis: subdue the earth—labor; then who was given as the helper to Adam? He was to go in the sweat of the brow, to do the subduing, but who was it to help him? It was the woman. And how was she to help him? By creating a family that he couldn’t create. So what do you find in verse 12? The family is protected. And you notice how the family is protected in verse 12, it says “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” By the way, obviously the Lord didn’t give the land to the Gentiles, this is addressed to Israel.
“Honor your father and your mother,” isn’t that interesting. Why is “honor” there in verse 12? Because where, as we grow up from childhood, where is it that we first encounter respect and authority? It’s our parents, and if we can’t learn authority in the home under parental supervision we’ve got a big problem. And I wasn’t being sarcastic earlier when I was saying they killed teenagers who couldn’t get the picture. By the time they got to be young adults if they hadn’t got the picture yet, they were out of here, because the home is the place where authority is learned. You can begin to see [can’t understand word/s] holy mackerel, no wonder we’re in a mess, no wonder the school teachers are about ready to quit. My son had a class in this county; 60–70% of the kids in his class had no father in the home, so right away we got a problem. And the mother is off working because there’s no father around. Kids don’t know how to respond, you can’t touch them because they’ll sue you, you can’t do this or they’ll badmouth you, no concept of authority or submission. This is great material to build a society from….
In the Ten Commandments you filter all that crud out, and it’s serious. Verse 12 is talking about authority of the parents. He doesn’t talk about the priests in verse 12, it’s not addressed to the government—it’s addressed to the children. And by the way, “honor” I would say would include taking care of them in their old age.
Now we go into the more criminal orientation, verse 13, “You shall not murder.” That’s obvious, that’s a restraint on sin. Verse 14, “You shall not commit adultery,” that protects the home and the family. Verse 15: “You shall not steal,” what does stealing protect? What is labor? Labor is what generates wealth; somebody who steals steals the soul of the person who labored for that which is stolen. This is serious stuff here. And it’s interesting, in these Ten Commandments, we have the basic building block of a society. Talk about a course in sociology, how about a course on the Ten Commandments? A great place to start.
Look at verse 16: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Why is that necessary? How can you have a court system without barring false testimony? It’s absolutely [can’t understand word] to any kind of judicial process. You’ve got to have trustworthy evidence. And it also means on a lesser plain outside of the courtroom, you don’t run people down and malign their character. This protects the individual’s character from character assassination. Unfortunately talk shows, editorials, etc., political cartoons, while sometimes can be humorous, there’s a fine line between that and maligning people and their character. It’s all right to point out faults; leaders have to have faults pointed out - the Bible points that out. But on the other hand, there’s a line where something is a false witness against your neighbor.
Verse 17 concludes and commentators by the dozens, down through history by the hundreds, have pointed out that verse 17 is the mirror image of verse 4… [blank spot v. 17, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant, or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”] …it includes people, it includes families, it includes relatives, it even includes donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. The ramifications of this politically are enormous. Down through history one of the things that came out of the French Revolution, it came through Karl Marx, is the communist philosophy of a society. The United States hasn’t gone communist but the United States has adopted an enormous amount of Marxist thought. Do you realize where inheritance taxes came from historically? I think those rich families ought to be controlled. All right, we have courts to do that. Well I think they should pay more. God said in the Old Testament that income tax was 10%. Now the last time I looked when you multiply 10% times a million, you get a bigger number than 10% times ten thousand. So do the wealthy pay more? Of course they do. You don’t need graduated income tax. You don’t need inheritance taxes that are family-destroying taxes.
Most importantly verse 17, when you see “covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor,” do you know what that is? That’s envy. Marxism historically has promoted the mental attitude sin of envy. Marxism is always catering to the envious. And we have politicians deliberately today exalt the mental attitude sin of envy and nobody calls them on it. We ought to get those people. Why, because they’ve been more successful than you have? See the point is that the mental attitude of envy is manifested in a desire to take someone else’s property. And taxes are a way of doing it. So that’s why the tax structure in the Bible was flat rate, because that meant that everybody was handled equally. Yes, the rich paid more because they made more. There were no tax loopholes. See, the problem today is you never…, the wealthy people that are really wealthy are going to beat you every time. So forget it. Your little fancy tax structures aren’t going to beat them, because if I’ve got a million dollars I’m going to hire an attorney and an accountant and we’re going to figure out how to beat it. What you need is a simple tax law that doesn’t have loopholes because they’re easily enforced instead of having 1800 layers of this stuff that doesn’t really work, because it’s so complicated nobody understands it. But that’s the law.
Let’s go to chapter 21 because we’re going to see in chapter 21 the Ten Commandments are expanded. We’re not going to go into it in detail but I’m going into enough of this so you’ll realize that this is not repeated in the New Testament. Some of it is, but most of it isn’t. Verse 1: “Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them.  If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.” That was the answer to the institution of slavery that they had to encounter. If verse 2 was carried out in a society, all slavery would be gone in six years. So next time you hear some idiot talk about oh, there’s slavery in the Bible, just show them 21:2.
Verse 3, “If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him.” See the “ifs” in verse 2-2, this is what we call casuistic law, i.e., there is specific cases to guide the elders in their courtroom for a decision. Today in a courtroom I guess lawyers call this precedence, in other words, they go back to what previous cases have done and they develop a precedent and that helps them apply the law in new situations, because they’ve looked back and they say we’ve got a precedent for handling this problem. What God is doing in verse 2-4 is they didn’t have any precedent because they didn’t have the Law before, so the marvelous thing of verses 2-4 in casuistic law is it’s an initialization of precedent. They didn’t have precedent so God gave them, along with the Ten Commandments, precedents, so when they did get the Law, when the nation got started, initialized, they had all this reservoir of casuistic law code where they could apply the law. See how gracious God was. He’s basically given them decades of court decisions so they can get started using the principles in concrete cases.
Look at how concrete it is, look at verse 4, 5, see how detailed the conditions are, those are actual court instances where the Law is being applied, and the judge needs to have guidance. He doesn’t know, you know, how do I apply “thou shalt not steal,” how shall I apply “thou shalt not covet,” and I’ve got a slave here, how does the law apply here? That’s why all these are examples. Look at the detail, verses 8, 9, 10, verse 11, all kinds of if this and if he does this, if he doesn’t do that, if this is the situation, if that’s the situation, here’s what you do.
Then in verse 12 here’s a case where they’re dealing with murder. And what constitutes murder, what constitutes manslaughter? “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death.  But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee.” There’s a case where, I’m not all that familiar with law but I think that’s a manslaughter case, they’re making a distinction here between murder and manslaughter. All these distinctions are buried within the Mosaic Law Code. Verse 14,”If, however, a man acts presumptuously toward his neighbor, so as to kill him craftily, you are to take him even from My altar, that he may die.” In other words, he deliberately planned that, that’s planned homicide and he can’t flee, he can’t claim manslaughter for that.
Verse 15, “And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.” Look at that. Verse 15 is an example of casuistic law applied back to Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother,” that’s the abstract general principle. But then you come into the Mosaic Law in verse 15 gives you a specific instance of that general principle. The Law is full of this. Verse 18, talking about quarreling, verse 22 plays a role in the issue of the value of the fetus, in verse 16, “if a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye,” that is the slave is freed. Notice verse 28, “And if an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten,” so animals that commit homicide are also capitally punished.
Then you come to chapter 22, this is interesting, this is theft. Chapter 22 is an expansion of casuistic law applied to the issue of theft. Remember I said how the Old Testament handles thievery. “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.” How’s that for restitution, do you think that would lower the insurance rates on property insurance? You bet. See how wise this is. Restitution, they forced… there was compulsory restitution. They didn’t send a guy off to jail so the taxpayers would pay $30,000 for a guy who’s already wrecked $30–40,000 worth of goods, the heck with that, get him out there and make him earn money so we get the money back, never mind giving him a motel for ten years, that doesn’t solve the problem.
Verse 2, “If the thief is caught while breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there will be no blood guiltiness on his account,” self defense, home defense against a burglar. Verse 3, “If the sun has risen on him, there will be blood guiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.  If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.  If a man lets a field or vineyard be graced bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution….” In other words, the way it was done in Old Testament, they knew sin, they had people that were rip off artists then, the sin nature… Cain was only the second generation and he was a murderer; sin has been with us for a while.
So when the Law, capital “L” came into existence, what you’ve got here is a wise, wise law code, and it just blows my mind that even Christians who are in government today have never thought about going back to the Mosaic Law to learn some wisdom principles. I once read an article, I was interested in this restitution, and it was in the Harvard Law Journal. Now here’s a journal coming out of one of the leading law schools in our country, and there was a professor that wrote about the new paradigm of restitution. I thought “new paradigm?” For crying out loud, Moses talked about this in 1400 BC; take that little book off the library shelf that’s dusty, that you never read before, and read it. Restitution is not a new paradigm; it may be new for him, but it’s not new historically.
It goes on, you can look down and the rest of chapter 22 is all casuistic, it’s all applications of general principles. Chapter 23, look at this, this protects the court system, “You shall not bear false report, do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.  You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil,” that’s mobs, “nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice.” That’s social pressure to lie under oath in a court room. How many times have we seen that?
Verse 3, “Nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute.” That’s a warning against this business of feeling sorry, it’s not the human emotions, it’s, “what is the crime”—never mind the background. And in things like verse 4 are directed to the individual, there’s no way you can really legislate things like that, and verse 4 is a good example of the spirit of the Mosaic Law. It’s personal responsibility. Look at verse 4, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.  If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.  You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute.  Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will acquit the guilty.”
A lot of these are protective illustrations dealing with mental attitudes, dealing also with casuistic law. Verse 10, another example, economics, “You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield,  but on the seventh year you shall let it rest,” ooh, look at that one, that says every seventh year you get a sabbatical. If you’re going to do this right, that means, during the six years, you’d better have one-sixth extra so you can cover that seventh year. But you see how God does that, He breaks the work cycle up so that we are forced to rest. We won’t go into all the details.
Let’s conclude by looking at page 65 of the notes. That’s what I mean by the Mosaic Law, the capital “L”. The purpose of the Mosaic Law was to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. “Because the Mosaic stipulations exceeded the capacity of sinful human nature, they intentionally forced Israel away from trying to live a holy life in the energy of the flesh and toward a moment-by-moment trust in God’s gracious enabling. From the very beginning of the Mosaic Law Code, God expressed doubt that the nation would” ever do it. Skipping down, “If the Mosaic Law was no to save, then what was it for? It was to drive Israel to anticipate gracious salvation from God, salvation which had now become available in Christ. It was a foretaste of life in God’s presence to show Jews their need for preparation before the Kingdom of God became permanently established among men.”
This is the sentence I’ve been trying to emphasize: “We should not, therefore, downplay the Law’s,” capital “L”, physical, political, economic, and social details. Human life includes all of these details so that God’s righteous behavioral standards necessarily apply through the entire social fabric of civilization. When God gave the Law code through Moses, He claimed that it expressed standards superior to those of every other nation on earth.” You can check that out by going to Deuteronomy 4:6-8. “The Mosaic Law expressed righteousness and justice more clearly than Egyptian precepts, the Code of Hammurabi, and other ancient legal systems. Its purpose was to reveal in unavoidable detail God’s righteous will for human life—all of it.” But it was given to a nation.
If you think about it, do you know of any casuistic law in the New Testament? Very little. Anything about courts? Not really in the New Testament. The New Testament doesn’t cover all of this; it covers a heart of ethics. It is addressed to the individual, but the individuals to whom the New Testament is addressed live in this nation, they live in this nation, they live in another nation - there are all different nations, none of whom have as their God the God of Israel. So the Christian is left in a position where we’re aliens and sojourners in a society that’s alien to the Scriptures. So the dilemma for the Christian is, as I walk and seek God’s will in my life, if I am accorded, and the first Christians weren’t, but if we are as we are in America, we are accorded the right as citizens to vote and express ourselves politically, it would seem to me that we would use the Mosaic Law as a treasure house to obtain wisdom principles in solving some modern social problems, knowing full well we’re not bringing in any kingdom here. All we’re doing as Christian citizens is trying to be the salt of the earth, and it’s not wrong to seek wisdom principles in the Law. God said that’s the way I want to see a nation run. So if that’s the way He said He wants to see a nation run, it seems like we could look to those law codes for wisdom. But that’s wisdom for society, that’s not my personal ethical relationship with Jesus Christ. And the New Testament puts the emphasis on this life of the Church, life inside the Church, life and communication between Jesus and the individual believer, between believer and believer who are in Christ, and it really doesn’t go into all these details of the Mosaic Law.
When in Acts 15 they said the Law is not being applied to Gentiles, it was not a call to overthrow Roman law. Later on Christian influence changed emphases in the legal structure. Today, our legal structure, as I pointed out from the Constitution, our legal structure in our country thankfully has inherited a lot of wisdom principles. Not, however, because the wisdom principles were commanded by God to the United States of America; they’re wisdom of His righteousness and citizens who happen to be Christians said we have insight into a social problem and we think this is the best way of doing it.
Question asked: Clough replies: One of the great commentaries now being written is written by a guy by the name of Arnold Fruchtenbaum, and he’s written commentaries, extensive commentaries on, really almost the whole Bible, and Arnold got his PhD from the Rabbinic School in New York City, and it’s quite interesting because he’s very well equipped. For years he has debated, within Jewish circles, the issue of who Jesus Christ is and the Messiah. It’s very interesting, it’s interesting to watch Hebrew Christians go after it with non-Hebrew Christians, because the level of discussion is so far into the Word of God beyond which you normally see or hear, because they both know the Scriptures, so you get a real high level of exchange going on. It reminds me sometimes of, you know, that must have been what it was like with Paul when he hit the synagogues of Greece and Turkey, it must have been a ripping storm when he hit.
Any questions on what we’ve covered so far?
Question asked: Clough replies: There’s a book where Arnold Fruchtenbaum tries to answer that because he’s had to struggle personally with it as a Jew, called Hebrew Christianity I think, I forgot who published it. He goes into that and he points out that the guidelines to solve that problem for believing Jews is that they should not ever say that they have to keep the Law, because the Law is enforced today over Christians. He says, circumcision, for example, goes back to the Abrahamic Covenant, so he says the Jewish Christian can surely carry on traditions just because he’s Jewish as long as he doesn’t make those absolutes in the Pharisaical sense. So he gives freedom to do that. Now getting back to the text of Acts, we’ve just gone through Acts 15 and we’ve seen that the Church kind of responded to the circumstances of the moment with sort of an expedient thing, but it didn’t solve the problem.
In the notes, the next step is going to be Acts 21 and the mud hits the fan in Acts 21 because what they tried to solve in Acts 15 comes back to haunt them, because they didn’t solve it. Acts 15 was just kind of a band-aid and they kind of worked their way through it. We’re Monday morning quarterbacking telling them how to run the game on Saturday, so we have to be careful here and not become arrogant about it, but we know from Acts that that didn’t solve the problem, and in Acts 21 Paul is almost murdered by a mob, the leadership of which were believers. And it’s a pretty frightening and scary incident that happened there. And the Holy Spirit through Luke managed to keep that text there, to show you what believers instigated, believers instigated, because of their legalism. And you’ll see, probably after you read Acts 21, you ought to read it slow with understanding, because it’s quite a nasty account of what happened there, and after you see that, you begin to understand why Paul is so vehement in Galatians and Romans.
Question asked, something about did Israel lose its privilege entirely of ushering in the whole message of the plan of God to the world…. : Clough replies: Where does it leave Israel after the church separates? Where is Israel left? Israel is left where the Law leaves her and where the covenants in the Old Testament leave… that’s where you get into eschatology, prophecy, etc. how you interpret those covenants. The covenants were all given to the Jewish nation, and those covenants have to literally come to pass. That’s why we say that Israel, as Paul says in Romans 11, Israel’s falling away gave the door of salvation to the Gentiles, but then he adds, and their coming back will bring peace to the world. So clearly Paul affirms a future role for Israel, because Israel has only half finished her role in history if you think about it. The next role is the Second Advent of Christ. The whole Messianic issue hinges on Jesus sitting on the throne of David, not the throne of Rome, it’s not going to be the throne somewhere else - it’s the throne of David. And the throne of David is going to be in Jerusalem.
World peace is going to happen when Jesus Christ sits and assumes the throne of David. Israel’s role is still yet to exist, and getting these two together is why there’s such debate in theology, because you have what appears to be two different programs going on. The issue is, has one replaced the other, or do somehow they play back and forth. In covenant theology it’s basically replacement theology, that Israel is done and over with, doesn’t have a future, and is totally replaced by the church. The problem with that approach is that the covenants weren’t given to the church; the covenants were all given to Israel. What are you going to do about it? So then they start readjusting their hermeneutics to rework those covenants in the Old Testament. That’s fine to rework them but if you were a believer ten centuries before Jesus and you read that, I’m sorry, you would not get out of those texts what these guys are saying now after the Reformation.
That’s why there’s this big debate that goes on, and we’ll get further into it as we go on. That’s why I’m taking you slowly through the book of Acts, to see that number one, the church did not get up at Pentecost and say, “Ooh, we’re going to be a church now.” The church had a long approach before it acquired its identity, and it was Paul, largely the one, who acquired its identity. When you get into Acts 21 you’re going to see a very, very serious thing happens, something that is predicted in the parable of Jesus in Matthew 22, and you’re going to see from Acts 21 to the end of Acts, Acts 28, all through there is the ramifications and the fallout of this problem. The Church did not solve the problem in Acts 15, it came back to bite them again, and they never go it together in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem church never got it together in the book of Acts. If you read chapters 21, 21, 23, and you read it carefully, you’re getting Luke’s authoritative analysis of what happened. If you look at that authoritative analysis you’ll see that Rome plays an increasing role, the Gentiles play a role. In fact, the saviors of Paul are the Roman legions. The Roman army is the one that saves Paul, how God through it of course, but I’m just saying it’s a graphic depiction of the fact that…. The Roman army, a group of unbelieving soldiers had to be called in to protect Paul against legalistic believers in a religious mob, not a flattering image. But it shows you the role of police; it shows you the role of the state.
That’s one of the arguments Luke is doing here. Remember Luke was written probably for Paul’s trial in Rome, and what Luke is doing, he’s giving the attorneys or the lawyers that were helping with Paul’s case material so they could argue his position as a Roman citizen. Paul is going to assume that he’s a Roman citizen. He willingly takes the position, I am a Roman citizen. So now he’s distinct, he’s a Jew but his position politically is a Roman, not an Israelite. He’s a Diaspora Jew and he deliberately takes a Diaspora Jew political role. So watch the politics. Read it with not just religion in mind, but read it with politics in mind as you read from chapters 21-28 and you’ll see the trend there. It’s rather shocking when you think about it in political terms.
And then the declaration in Romans 28 is like the crack of doom over Israel, and this is why the covenant theologians camp on Acts 28. They say clearly Acts 28 is the suicide of Israel, right there, Paul says forget it, you people have not turned to the Messiah, I’m not going to bother with you any more, and we’re going to go to the Gentiles, it’s all over. It’s not a flattering text.
Question asked, something about taking a lot of the principles you’re referring to and tie it to the personal… is there really a clear road to take on this whole issue: Clough replies: There are guiding principles. The road with regard to the Law, I think there are some guiding principles but I think that wisdom, by definition, requires a spiritual sensitivity to apply. Here’s an example. The Law commanded all the kings to judge justly. What’s the famous story of Solomon with the two mothers that claimed the baby? And Solomon is supposed to be the wise king. Remember the story, okay, bring the two mothers here and we’ll cut the baby in half, they can each one have half of it. Now obviously I don’t think Solomon intended to cut the baby in half, but it was a very clever device, a very wise device to smoke out who was the real mother.
You can’t apply wisdom with a computer, that’s the problem. And people who get all excited about wisdom, it’s nice to be excited about wisdom, the problem is you can’t do anything with it without maturity and a sensitivity of the Spirit. What happens when you over-teach wisdom principles, wisdom principle, wisdom principle, wisdom principle, and not teach at the same time the filling of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Holy Spirit you do develop a legalism, and that hurts. There have been people that get a wisdom principle out of the Old Testament and bang everybody over the head with it. Wait a minute! Wisdom principles are applied to the degree to which you can apply them in your circumstances. Wisdom is not legalism; it can become legalism when the wisdom principles are interpreted like it’s an absolute law.
Someone says something: Clough says: That’s right, and that’s not true. That’s why in a Christian congregation, I’ve never been in a Christian congregation that you haven’t had fads that go through the congregation, and if you’re not part of the fad you’re somehow spiritually out of it. Back when we were in this church, it was breast feeding, and if mother didn’t breast feed she wasn’t really honoring her baby. Well, there were some women there that couldn’t breast feed, so what are you going to do about that? They were made to feel like they were second class moms because they couldn’t breast feed their baby. Now come on, stop being so stupid and get a life. That’s the kind of silliness that comes up when you get these wisdom principles turned into law codes, and that’s the problem.
The Mosaic Law, all these passages, Exodus 21, 22, 23 that we went through tonight, those cannot be applied as law to any nation on earth. They can provide insight, so, for example, if I am a political leader and I’m in the legislature, and I look at those principles and I think you know restitution makes sense but we have a problem with restitution in our present judicial system. The problem is you need policing to make it work, because with the breakdown of authority they guy says well, you’re going to have to do this or that, and you have to kind of follow them all around to make sure that they’ve done their restitution, or it never happens. Now what do you do? Do you know what they did in the Old Testament? That was considered presumptuous sin against the court and they were capitally executed. Whoa, guess that had a little motivation to finish up your restitution.
The point was that today it’s hard to do that. I feel sorry for the legislators that have to deal with the capital punishment issue. I believe in capital punishment, but by golly, when you see these people get off with million dollar lawyers and then some poor kid gets in a drug thing and he gets it because he’s got some cruddy attorney that the court appointed, there’s iniquity there in the way the thing is applied. And I can understand, particularly people in the black community are very, very sensitive to this; Christians in the black community are very sensitive to this issue. And they’re sensitive to it because they see the iniquity of the application. But they go overboard in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I’ve argued with them that you can’t do that, the text is the text and the text says that the foundation of civil power is the sword. That’s why Romans 13, what’s the one symbol of civil government in the Bible? What is the thing that they picked up from the Roman soldiers? The machaira, now the Roman soldiers weren’t carrying this thing for decoration. The policeman isn’t carrying his weapon because it looks nice on his uniform. And what’s so incongruous about people who disbelieve in capital punishment - then you’re saying that no policeman should be armed. Oh well I don’t meant that. Oh yes you do, because the sword is the sword of the state, the right of the civil government to use force, lethal force.
When I was in the military I used to walk into the command center, and it was very interesting, I used to have to give a briefing in the mornings to the Commander, the wing commander and all the people there, we were discussing the different aircrafts and the flights of the day and what we had to do, what the mission was, and you walk into that command center and here was all the commanders in this command center, and the radios and everything else, everything is in there so it’s a very sensitive area and at the time we were talking about nuclear war. Just so you get the point, when you walk into the command post, a big sign, big red letters, Use of Deadly Force Authorized by the Commander. And you saw that sign every time you walked through the door, so you were real careful… you know, gee, am I supposed to be in here. There were guys in there with guns, and they’re not going to ask too many questions. Use of Deadly Force is Authorized by the Commander! I wish I’d taken a picture of that thing because it’d make great sense in a Bible lesson about capital punishment. That’s what it’s talking about, use of lethal force. And that’s not the Mosaic Law, the Mosaic Law uses the principle, but that started with Noah, Genesis 9, and continues into the New Testament. There’s where the New Testament does reiterate certain Old Testament principles because Peter and Paul tell us to obey the authorities for they are… and what does he call the authorities, “a minister of God.” What, you mean those Roman soldiers? Yes, that’s what Paul said, even when he was in jail unjustly with a Roman soldier guarding him he said “they are ministers of God to thee for good.” How could he say that? Because he had a bigger idea of what the power of the state was and its role.
We’re out of time, please look at Acts 21 and read that text; it’s a very sobering text. And read who’s doing the rioting? Are they believers or unbelievers?