Do you stone your child for talking back?
Do you stone adulterers?
Do you kill witches?
~ Actual questions from skeptics asked on some forums
Does God work with people in different ways down through the ages? Individuals are different. Groups of people differ all the time. We do see certain changes in how God dealt with people to reflect those differences? However, that does not make Dispensationalism true. This notion that God has radically changed down through time ignores the fact that He has set up a general framework from which He deals with all people. Otherwise, God’s justice can be called into question.
In Part 1, we examined that many of the things that we see prior to Moses correlate quite well with the notion that the Law existed prior to Moses’ time. However, we also saw that there seemed to be one law which “was added” according to Gal 3:19. Since it was in force “til the [S]eed should come”, but it only started 430 years after Abraham (v 17), then it must have been a law that was not previously spelled out explicitly. But, which law? Since it was “added because of transgressions”, and the shedding of blood is the only thing that can bring about the forgiveness of sins, then it must be a reference to the sacrificial system. Once the Seed came, they stopped.
However, is that the only change? No, actually, there was another temporary change. However, this one is even clearer, and it was necessary even in order to set up the sacrificial system.
Think about it. Sacrifices existed prior to Moses. We know that the shedding of blood looked forward to the time when Christ’s blood would be shed for all. Cain and Abel, or at least Abel, even brought firstfruits. Already there was the notion of what, when and how to sacrifice. How formal was it? We cannot know for sure, but it seems that most if not all of it would have been known. Evidently, Abraham knew more than just the law, for:
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
~ Ge 26:5
So, what really changed? One change that could have been would have been the formalizing of some of the rituals along with the sacrifices. Certainly, the tabernacle was a change. That doesn’t seem like a very complete answer, though. And, indeed changes are needed to support the tabernacle and later the temple.
Since Abraham obeyed God, then so did Isaac and then Jacob, we see the patriarchal system at work. The patriarchs were the heads of their households. That means they were the government ruling their tribe. They were not just the civil government, either. They were the priests of their tribes, even offering sacrifices!
Later, Israel moved to Egypt and became a great nation within a nation. It was so large that Egypt tried to eradicate them by killing their offspring and working the rest to death. They still had a more or less patriarchal mentality, though. Each tribe had elders within it who ruled, albeit under the Egyptians.
When Moses came out of Egypt, his father-in-law persuaded him to setup a system of judges before Moses wore himself out (Ex 18:13-26). Israel had become too large for patriarchal rule. It needed a civil government.
Later, God consecrated the line of Aaron for the priesthood (Ex 28:1). This is an even more significant change. Prior to Israel going to Egypt, the patriarchs sacrificed to God. Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek, who was the High Priest. Hebrews makes it clear that this was Jesus Christ. Therefore, the change in the Law spoken of in Hebrews was a change to the administration of the priesthood. However, when you realize that the Melchizedek priesthood existed prior to Moses, then the change from the Levirate priesthood to Jesus Christ, of the line of Judah, was a change back to the original priesthood!
So, what was combined in one person in the patriarchal period, the civil and religious authority, was now split. Even when a king was later setup, the civil and religious authority was divested into two: the king and the high priest.
So, while it is pretty evident that the formal sacrificial system was added when you compare Gal 3:17-19 and Ac 7:41-42, a change in the priesthood was needed to accommodate that change. After Jesus took back the priesthood, we see the sacrificial system suspended until the Millennium. At the same time, we see a formalizing of the civil government.
Why is it important to recognize this split? It is important because you have to realize what portions of the Law are carried out by individuals, what portions are carried out by the priesthood and what portions are carried out by the civil government.
In other words, I don’t run around stoning adulterers because according to God’s Law, I have to have 2 witnesses to sentence a person to death. Witnesses means a trial. A trial means a judge. Since our civil government fails to keep God’s Law, in either spirit or letter, adulterers go unpunished. The Bible does not give me, an individual, the authority for vigilantism.
The admonition throughout the New Testament is that a Christian is responsible for their area of control. A Christian is not responsible for what the civil government does or does not do, any more than Lot was responsible for what the citizens of Sodom were doing. A Christian can speak out, voice their opinion, etc., but in the end the government will be held accountable for its actions. The fact that we don’t get to choose what nationality we are born into only underscores this.
As a Church, however, we are responsible for carrying out what we know to be correct. If an individual becomes too heretical, the Church is responsible to separate that individual from the rest in order to protect the body (and, hopefully to bring repentance from the individual). If a church becomes too heretical, an individual is in a much harder spot. If continuing means breaking God’s commandments, then it is best to separate and find another organization, if possible. Whether one stays or one goes, a Christian has to be sure they are on a firm foundation (“prove all things”) and then remain steadfast in the truth (“hold fast that which is good”).
Notice what did not change in any of this: The Sabbath (last act of creation), the Holy Days (remember Ge 1:14) nor the food laws (even Noah knew the difference between clean and unclean animals).
So, during the time of Moses, we saw a split in the religious and civil authorities, both exercising control over different portions of the Law. We saw a change in the high priesthood from Melchizedek to Aaron. We will next look to the period of the judges to Jesus, with most of the changes in the civil government, which should provide proof enough for any remaining doubter as to why modern Christians do not have the authority to dictate the OT civil laws.
In the next part, we will look at “The Lie of Dispensationalism, Part 3: The Law from Moses to Jesus“.
Happy Sabbath 🙂
QUOTE: "In other words, I don’t run around stoning adulterers because according to God’s Law, I have to have 2 witnesses to sentence a person to death. Witnesses means a trial. A trial means a judge. Since our civil government fails to keep God’s Law, in either spirit or letter, adulterers go unpunished. The Bible does not give me, an individual, the authority for vigilantism."
I'm thinking when Jesus gave permission to those "with-out sin to throw the first stone" did away with this kind of punishment.
Also anyone in God's church committing adultery etc. doesn't go unpunished. To be called out by brethren and maybe disfellowshipped is punishment. Hopefully with loving help and a lot of prayers….a member can get on the right track again…..but were all sinners 🙁
I hope you had a fabulous Sabbath!
You bring up 2 things that actually could take entire sermons in themselves, but I'll try to condense them down.
1. It was the religious authorities that brought the adulterous woman to Jesus, and they did not have the right to execute someone. I cover this topic in more detail in future articles, but now I wish I had used that particular example. 🙂
In fact, I think it is an interesting example of how the Pharisees where trying to get Jesus to do something illegal. They thought it was a lose-lose proposition for Jesus. What they did not seem to realize was just how hypocritical they were being.
I actually have an opinion about what Jesus wrote on the ground. Of course, I cannot prove it, and I readily admit such. However, in the context of bringing a woman who was committing adultery, where was the man? It does take 2 to commit adultery after all! She was caught "in the very act"!
I'm sure Jesus saw right through their facade of righteousness, and He probably start writing all of their names and dates down in the dirt. It's kind of hard to throw the first stone when you're the other party committing adultery.
Now, some will say that this is an example of how God just loves everybody and it doesn't matter what you do or whether or not you keep the Law. They tell you to come "Just as I am". In reality, Jesus upheld the Law and said, "Go, and sin no more."
Yet, as an offense that required witnesses and a judge, it would not have been up to the religious authorities to pass sentence on her in the first place. I hope the rest of the series makes that even clearer.
2. I really want to question the whole notion that disfellowship as a form of "punishment". I have no doubt that the way it has most often been implemented, it was intended as such. However, is it really? Is it really intended to be so?
You know, from what I've seen, and I've certainly not seen every example, using "shunning", "marking" or "disfellowshipping" usually backfires. In many cases, the person feels wronged and becomes even more hardened against what they perceive to be a wrong verdict.
However, a subpoint I hope to make in this series is that God intends His followers to be "self-governing". That doesn't mean making up their own rules, but rather that they, with the help of the Holy Spirit, overcome their sins and faults. In order to change, a person has to want to change. That's what ancient Israel failed to do.
It seems to me that disfellowshipping is much more about protecting the body of believers than punishment. If you get an infection, you want the offending bacteria out of the system. If that bacteria mutates into something beneficial, then it is free to stay. The Church needs to be able to fight any evil from within.
The desire, of course, should be that the individual eventually comes back (1Co 5:5; 1Ti 1:20-2:4). Yet, how many do venture back after such an episode? I can honestly only think of one I know about, but that still ended badly. Have we as a Church missed the point? Have we as a Church really learned what Mt 18 is all about?