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The Law Versus Grace


Neon Genesis
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"Traditional" Christianity teaches that the old law was superseded by the death of Jesus and that Christians are no longer bound by the law but the grace of Jesus. For "traditional" Christians, the only thing needed to follow Jesus is to have faith in his death and resurrection. This interpretation of the conflict between grace and the law is based on the teachings found in the epistles of Paul. When I was raised as a fundamentalist, I had always assumed this was the correct view of salvation. We saw the Judaizers referenced in Acts and the epistles of Paul who tried to force Gentiles to follow the Jewish law as heretical false Christians who misunderstood the teachings of Jesus and Paul's view was the correct one. When Peter and James sided with the Judaizers in Galatians chapter two, I saw them as mistaken in this passage and Paul was the one in the right. But in Matthew chapter five, Jesus says the following

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,* not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore, whoever breaks* one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Nowhere in this passage does Jesus say the old law will pass away with his death. He says that the law still stands until heaven and earth pass away. As heaven and earth are still here, this would imply the law still stands. Although Jesus has disagreements with the Pharisees over the interpretation of the law, nowhere in the gospel does Jesus say his death will supersede the law. If Jesus not only approved of the law but insisted it should be followed until the end of the world, was Paul wrong and should Gentile Christians follow the Jewish law after all? If Jesus approved of the old law, does that mean he approved of the punishments as well? Like did Jesus approve of stoning gay people and disobedient children? Edited by Neon Genesis
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If Jesus not only approved of the law but insisted it should be followed until the end of the world, was Paul wrong and should Gentile Christians follow the Jewish law after all? If Jesus approved of the old law, does that mean he approved of the punishments as well? Like did Jesus approve of stoning gay people and disobedient children?

 

It is not clear to me that the Mosaic law was still applied quite so literally in Judaism generally during the late 2nd-Temple period, although some groups like the Essenes were pretty conservative. Many of these laws had been instituted by and for a nomadic culture which was no longer the context in which Judaism was practiced.

 

In any event, Jesus was a progressive reformer, so I cannot envision him approving of stoning of gay people or disobedient children. And, there is nothing in the theme of his teachings that would suggest such an attitude. But, even if he did, I don't think that law instituted for a nomadic society should be binding today in a large-scale industrial society in all of its specific detail.

 

George

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If Jesus not only approved of the law but insisted it should be followed until the end of the world, was Paul wrong and should Gentile Christians follow the Jewish law after all? If Jesus approved of the old law, does that mean he approved of the punishments as well? Like did Jesus approve of stoning gay people and disobedient children?

 

Ah, Neon, you've tapped into the most awkward conundrums in all of Christendom!

 

Christianity sees as its foundation biblical Judaism. Yet, the practice of Christianity, as it has evolved over the centuries, could not be further from the faith of its so-called founder, Jesus. As you describe in your opening post, all we know of Jesus informs us that he was nothing if not an obedient Jew. Now, as George has pointed out, this is not Jesus' grandfather's Judaism - it's evolved in a progressive way (I believe Jesus was profoundly influenced by Hillel), so that by the time of Jesus, some of the more draconian measures of the Law were "spiritualized," but most of the dietary laws and rituals were still in place.

 

And yet, the Gospels describe Jesus challenging the Law at every turn and running headlong into conflict with the "Scribes and Pharisees."

 

Anyone who has attempted to live by the Law, as I have, can attest to the fact that it ain't easy! You have to keep separate sets of plates, separate storage compartments in your refrigerator, and spend enormous amounts of time attending this feast and that feast and morning, afternoon and evening prayers, and etc., etc...

 

I'm not sure when Jews who followed Jesus first began distancing themselves from Judaism, but I am fairly certain that deliberate steps were taken in this direction and that eventually, what began as an honest attempt to reform Judaism, became something quite different. Not only did early Christians distance themselves from their Jewish brethren, they simultaneously developed a mythology steeped in fulfilling ancient Jewish prophecy in the life of Jesus.

 

Eschewing the intricate rituals and prohibitions on tasty vittles and focusing instead on mysticism and an apocalyptic life beyond the grave helped propel Christianity forward.

 

NORM

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" But in Matthew chapter five, Jesus says the following Nowhere in this passage does Jesus say the old law will pass away with his death. He says that the law still stands until heaven and earth pass away. As heaven and earth are still here, this would imply the law still stands. Although Jesus has disagreements with the Pharisees over the interpretation of the law, nowhere in the gospel does Jesus say his death will supersede the law. If Jesus not only approved of the law but insisted it should be followed until the end of the world, was Paul wrong and should Gentile Christians follow the Jewish law after all? If Jesus approved of the old law, does that mean he approved of the punishments as well? Like did Jesus approve of stoning gay people and disobedient children?

 

What Jesus said or didn't say, do we really know? Are we not reading what the church system says he said? Does it really matter? The important thing in my view, is that he who tries to live by the LETTER of the law will, from my experience, inevitably fail as it might appear Jesus did picking corn, healing on the sabbath etc. As i believe Paul correctly stated, "the law was our schoolmaster" It slays us to bring us to the knowledge of the truth. In my own life i found that to try to live my a letter of a law/(s), whether written or unwritten, is certain spiritual death. That which is flesh is flesh and that which is Spirit is Spirit. For those who (in a sense) live and walk in the Spirit, there is no law and there is a new heaven and earth here now. They, as Paul has said, and can be experienced for oneself, are a new creature, and the old heaven and earth of the law has passed away. In a sense, all things have become new. Grace rules and there is no condemnation in this. No stoning either, even with Jesus, as it is recorded, for what that is worth, Jesus saying, "Neither do i condemn you, go your way and sin no more"

 

Just my personal view and 2 cents,

Joseph

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There are several discussions going on about grace and none of them really deals with what grace is. I don't know what grace is so I went to the Catholic Encyclopedia for an "enlightened" explanation. I got paragraph after paragraph of confusing gibberish about actual grace and sanctifying grace both of which are required for our salvation from the pains of hell. Grace is a religious buzzword for a host of things including genetic disposition, luck, intelligence, skill, personality, capacity to love, and many other desirable traits and fortunes.

 

Discussions about grace are confusing and I would say non productive because there is no clear definition of what grace is, if fact grace seems to me to mean so many different things that we all understand something different. I have pretty much come to the conclusion that grace is has so many meanings that it is meaningless.

 

 

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Harry,

 

Without applying it specifically i think a common denominator of the Biblical meaning would be ...

"goodness toward those who have no claim on, nor reason to expect it."

 

Of course when you get into specifics, you get in to doctrine and dogma and i agree that it can then be quite confusing.

 

BTW, mercy is often used as synonymous but it is NOT because mercy is "not getting something negative that one does deserve."

 

Just my view,

Joseph

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Ah, Neon, you've tapped into the most awkward conundrums in all of Christendom!

 

Christianity sees as its foundation biblical Judaism. Yet, the practice of Christianity, as it has evolved over the centuries, could not be further from the faith of its so-called founder, Jesus. As you describe in your opening post, all we know of Jesus informs us that he was nothing if not an obedient Jew. Now, as George has pointed out, this is not Jesus' grandfather's Judaism - it's evolved in a progressive way (I believe Jesus was profoundly influenced by Hillel), so that by the time of Jesus, some of the more draconian measures of the Law were "spiritualized," but most of the dietary laws and rituals were still in place.

 

And yet, the Gospels describe Jesus challenging the Law at every turn and running headlong into conflict with the "Scribes and Pharisees."

 

So when the Pharisees threaten to stone the adulterous woman in the gospel of John, is that more of the gospels' polemical views of the Pharisees and the real Pharisees never would have threatened to stone her?

 

No stoning either, even with Jesus, as it is recorded, for what that is worth, Jesus saying, "Neither do i condemn you, go your way and sin no more"

 

Though it should be noted that the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman is a later addition to the gospel and doesn't appear in the earliest manuscripts of John.
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There are several discussions going on about grace and none of them really deals with what grace is. I don't know what grace is so I went to the Catholic Encyclopedia for an "enlightened" explanation. I got paragraph after paragraph of confusing gibberish about actual grace and sanctifying grace both of which are required for our salvation from the pains of hell. Grace is a religious buzzword for a host of things including genetic disposition, luck, intelligence, skill, personality, capacity to love, and many other desirable traits and fortunes.

 

Discussions about grace are confusing and I would say non productive because there is no clear definition of what grace is, if fact grace seems to me to mean so many different things that we all understand something different. I have pretty much come to the conclusion that grace is has so many meanings that it is meaningless.

 

Maybe grace is like beauty........which can have many, even infinite, expressions. For me it is certainly not meaningless, nor a buzzword. Grace for me is that in which I live and move and have my being (or perhaps my non-being.... :D ) It is to live released from every attempt at self-justification, to live with gratitude, beyond any form of calculation designed to "gain" enlightenment/salvation.

 

No one need agree with me, and others can have there own view and opinion. It really does not matter. Nor how "unproductive" any discussion may be.

 

For the earth brings forth fruits of herself....

:)

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Harry,

 

Without applying it specifically i think a common denominator of the Biblical meaning would be ...

"goodness toward those who have no claim on, nor reason to expect it."

 

Of course when you get into specifics, you get in to doctrine and dogma and i agree that it can then be quite confusing.

 

BTW, mercy is often used as synonymous but it is NOT because mercy is "not getting something negative that one does deserve."

 

Just my view,

Joseph

 

"There but for the grace of God go I" is a pretty common old saw. When good things happen to us sometimes we do deserve it because we worked for those things and sometimes it's just luck. I don't think there is a god that pays any attention to us and our trite prayers or good and bad works. The life force is the source of all the natural laws of physics that all energy and matter operate within. Everything that happens, happens with cause but we don't always know the cause. I think people give god too much credit for what they don't understand. When something bad happens we hear, "well God must have a reason or it wouldn't have happened." God is a convienient conspirator when answers are beyond people.

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They can truly enjoy the feast who would just as willingly fast (Meister Eckhart)

 

(I still tend to enjoy the feast just that little bit more, but I'm working on it......though perhaps "working on it" is not quite where its at..... :) )

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"There but for the grace of God go I" is a pretty common old saw. When good things happen to us sometimes we do deserve it because we worked for those things and sometimes it's just luck. I don't think there is a god that pays any attention to us and our trite prayers or good and bad works. The life force is the source of all the natural laws of physics that all energy and matter operate within. Everything that happens, happens with cause but we don't always know the cause. I think people give god too much credit for what they don't understand. When something bad happens we hear, "well God must have a reason or it wouldn't have happened." God is a convienient conspirator when answers are beyond people.

 

Harry,

 

Grace as i defined it "goodness toward those who have no claim on, nor reason to expect it." doesn't have to be from God . We can deal out both Grace and mercy to our fellow humans without even the mention of God though in reality nothing can exist whether deemed good or bad without God. God as you have defined before, and i share that definition, as life force and source of all energy cannot by definition be absent from us. You take away that energy / force / source and nothing can exist including prayer or your or my beliefs. Perhaps you don't relate to prayer at all. Many here relate but not in the orthodox understanding / fashion. There are numerous threads on the subject here that you might find quite interesting.. I agree we don't always know cause and many people speak out of non-understanding or ignorance for things that happen yet i have not heard that kind of talk with the great majority on this progressive board.

 

Just my observation, Peace,

Joseph

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Harry,

 

Grace as i defined it "goodness toward those who have no claim on, nor reason to expect it." doesn't have to be from God . We can deal out both Grace and mercy to our fellow humans without even the mention of God though in reality nothing can exist whether deemed good or bad without God. God as you have defined before, and i share that definition, as life force and source of all energy cannot by definition be absent from us. You take away that energy / force / source and nothing can exist including prayer or your or my beliefs. Perhaps you don't relate to prayer at all. Many here relate but not in the orthodox understanding / fashion. There are numerous threads on the subject here that you might find quite interesting.. I agree we don't always know cause and many people speak out of non-understanding or ignorance for things that happen yet i have not heard that kind of talk with the great majority on this progressive board.

 

Just my observation, Peace,

Joseph

 

 

Joseph,

Thank you, this is good food for thought. Prayer, intention, good thoughts and wishes are all a part of what I think we all exercise in our actions and conscious desires. I relate to prayer but not to a god who I think will somehow make things happen. Prayer to me is my actions and my hopes, wishes and intentions for an outcome that is best from my point of view. We are all connected by the life force, not just humanity but all that exists. I think you have given me a gracious response and complimented the discussion. I think our intentions, hopes and desires affect the universal field of consciousness and in a small way and can influence outcomes.

 

I value your input and thoughtful responses.

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