Some ideas sound good on the surface. They can sound reasonable, even logical. However, when you dig into some of them, you start to find all sorts of things that just don’t jive with reality. That is the danger of using human reasoning when it comes to understanding God and the Bible.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
~ Pr 14:12 and 16:25
Note that this verse is in the Bible twice! If it’s in the Bible once, it is significant. If it’s in the Bible twice, we need to be paying attention.
Are you a dispensationalist? The idea that God deals with people in different ways during different ages, or “dispensations”, has a certain appeal. After all, didn’t Jesus change the Passover symbols from a lamb to that of bread and wine? Aren’t sacrifices suspended during the modern age? Surely, then, reason would hold that God does deal with people differently in different dispensations, right?
The problem manifests itself in two different ways, though. The first is the matter of the Law. The second is the matter of Israel. If you believe the Dispensationalist, God is rather inconsistent on both counts.
The Law To Moses’ Time
Dispensationalists use the idea that God works with people in different ages in different ways to teach that in the current Church age, most of the Law has been done away. It seems that they waffle somewhat on the Ten Commandments (except for that 4th one, of course), but in general, they teach we are living under grace. We are “not under law”, they say, except perhaps some vague form of law of moral responsibility or love towards other humans. Therefore, since God is dealing with people differently in different ages, they reason, it is irrelevant whether or not the Law or various parts of the Law have been or will be enforced in ages past or future.
Obviously, there is a wide range of differing opinion even within this view, so one cannot assume where on the continuum a given Dispensationalist is until he or she tells you. For the most part, though, the Law mutates throughout the Bible in this view as the different ages pass.
However, as I remind people in “Has the Law Been Done Away?”, Jesus said none of the Law or the prophets would be destroyed as long as heaven and earth remain. In fact, without Law, there is no definition of sin. If there is no definition of sin, then there can be no true repentance.
So, has the Law mutated over time?
- During creation and before Adam was created, God set the stars in place to determine “seasons”, another term for “festivals”.
- The last act of creation was God creating the Sabbath day.
- Cain and Abel knew of sacrifices long before Mt Sinai. Therefore, they must have had a sense of what was to come.
- Cain was warned that “sin lieth at the door”. No Law would mean no sin. Cain gave in anyhow and was punished for murder. In order to be punished, he had to do something wrong, so there must’ve been a Law.
- God became grieved because the thoughts of men “was only evil continually”. Obviously, there must’ve been a code of conduct.
- Noah was “righteous”, which had to mean a Law to live by. He also knew the difference between clean and unclean animals, so there must’ve been a Law of clean and unclean meats.
- God pondered whether or not to tell Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. He decided, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”
- “Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Hmmm, he tithed, too.
In spite of Dispensationalist claims, there seems to not be a huge difference between the Law at the time of Cain and Abel to that of Abraham down to Moses. In fact, it is a rather wild theory that they would be radically different anyhow, seeing as Moses was the one who compiled Genesis as well as the other 4 books of the Law.
Yet, there are some Scriptures that do indeed show God working with peoples and individuals in different ways. We are all unique, and so God does treat us as individuals and unique groups, but always within a framework. This framework does not change, else God is inconsistent. God’s purpose is the foundation of this framework.
There is one area that is very different today. There is one area of change that we do need to be aware of. Fortunately, God doesn’t hide this, but He tells us plainly that it has been changed. Instead of assuming what has or has not been changed, why don’t we look to the Bible for the answers?
NT Reference to Law Which “Was Added”
As I point out in “The Ten Commandments”, language is imprecise. The word “law” normally refers to the Law of (rather, given by) Moses. However, Paul even talks of a “law of sin” (Ro 7:23) speaking of a “law” in a more symbolic sense.
Even today, if I just say, “Law”, what do you think of? Perhaps a court judge pounding a gavel, or a policeman stopping a reckless driver, or how about a senator writing a bill? Then, there are the Law of Gravity, Murphy’s Law, international law, mathematical laws and so on. The word needs a context.
Yet, a law must have existed. As I also point out in “The Ten Commandments”, Abraham would not have needed justification if there was no Law. As I stated in that article:
So, the lessons of these “added” laws, which were given over 430 years after Abraham, were “because of transgressions” and were to be in effect until “the seed [sic, KJV] would come”. So, what ties together transgressions and the first coming of Jesus Christ? Well, His sacrifice and death, of course! What ceremonial laws were done away with because of Christ? The animal sacrificial system. The Book of Hebrews is an entire book devoted to the concept that Jesus Christ qualified to be our High Priest (mediator), and He entered “once for all” (Heb 10:10) into the Holy of Holies to atone for our sins. His coming and His dying did away with the need for animal sacrifices. The animal sacrifices were done by “the law” (v8), but Hebrews also acknowledges “Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein” (same verse).
That is why Samuel told King Saul, “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1Sa 15:22). Saul did not understand this, but David understood.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
~ Ps 51:16-17
Even then, though, that is not the complete story. In order for the sacrificial system to be “added”, there had to be another change — a change that speaks directly from the Book of Hebrews, but also one that illuminates in practical terms how we are to apply the Law today.
Next, we will look at “The Lie of Dispensationalism, Part 2: Change in Administration at the Time of Moses“.