Can an ancient text to ancient cultures really speak to modern society?

Is the Bible too Archaic to be helpful? Tough Questions about the Bible

Posted On June 7, 2024 By Peter In

A while back, a young man came to me and asked: “Don’t you think the Bible is almost too archaic to be helpful?”

“What do you mean,” I asked him?

“Well, I’m just saying, there are so many strange commands in the Bible. I know there are good things in the Bible too. But I wonder if people misapply a lot of it?”

To which, I responded: “YES! A lot of people do misapply it. And Yes, there are a lot of strange laws in the Bible that require cultural context in order to understand them. Yet, it’s not like we randomly pick and choose which verses to apply. I.e., There is a system to it. So, let’s go there!

Why do modern Christians apply certain commands like “do not steal,” but not others like “cut off off hands” (Deut. 25:11)? People often say “well, much of those laws passed away with the New Covenant.” But I think we need a little more clarity on that.

Theologian J. I. Packer distinguished three separate types of Law (the Do and Don’t lists God gave to Moses): Moral, Civil/Political, and Ceremonial Law.

Moral Law represents good things to do all the time. “Do not kill your neighbor” is still a wise rule to apply.

Civil/Political Law is application of the Moral Law on a municipal and national level (think speed limits and garbage restrictions).

Ceremonial Law is a set of regulations that governed the worship rituals of God’s people. These were rituals for relating to God- like sacrifices, offerings, and festivals.

It’s still a good idea to follow the Moral Law, even today. In fact, the Moral Law is the only set of rules that still applies today! The 10 Commandments are definitely still relevant- stealing, killing, and adultery are still bad for us. But, it’s important for us to understand that following the Moral Law is not what “gets” us to Heaven. We don’t obey these rules to gain more love from God. It’s actually the opposite- we follow these laws because God declared us to be righteous. The legalistic approach to this law says this: “I live rightly. Therefore, God calls me righteous.” The grace-driven approach says  “God declares me righteous. Therefore, I live rightly.” Do you see the difference?

You see, righteousness isn’t a reward for right-living; it is a gift that results in right-living! Christianity isn’t a process in which we earn God’s love. It’s the process in which we reflect love!

To be specific: God gave us “the law” as a babysitter (Gal.4), as well as a shock-collar or leash to keep up from hurting ourselves or others — UNTIL we understand our need for God’s help. God created a system of carrots and sticks to lead us from a system of “rules” into a system of “relationship.”

For example, I’m often asked the question: “Why does sin even matter if God already calls me righteous no matter the behavior?” Well, there are a lot of reasons!

  1. Sin exposes us to sowing and reaping. If you touch a hot stove, you’ll still be burned! God, in his mercy, has created built-in consequences for every sin. (Gal. 6).
  2. Sin creates a desire to pull away from God. When Adam and Eve sinned, the first thing they did was hide from God. Sin doesn’t affect God’s love for you- only YOUR love for HIM. (Heb 10:26ff).
  3. Sin forfeits our eternal rewards. Our beliefs determine where we spend eternity. Our behavior determines how. (Dan 12:2-3).
  4. Sin undermines earthly impact. Without character and integrity, God can’t give you more influence and opportunity without it destroying you. (Eph.4:1ff).

Now, if this is helpful for you, I go far deeper in my video message here.  And if you’re a note-taker, you can get the handout from the message here. But in my book Pharisectomy, I go ten times deeper. And I promise you, it’s a fun read filled with lots of laughter and stories that will help you rethink what a life-giving church is supposed to look like!

So, whether you’re motivated by legalism and earning your way to heaven, or you’re living in an extreme version of grace where nothing’s off limits, (or somewhere in the middle of these two) God desires you to switch into the joy of holy living according to His perfect plan!

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