Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Ro 2:28–29)
Transitioning from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant can be disorientating, especially when it comes to language. Take for example “Jew.” This word can be very confusing to understand as it has multiple meanings and ways in which it is used.
Most [ethnic/religious] Jews in Jesus’ day were nominal, i.e. they were outwardly conforming to the Old Covenant (+ their added traditions, Mk 7:7). However, they were not inwardly hoping in the Messiah or abiding by the Old Covenant in faith. Though many sat under John’s preparatory ministry it is difficult to know the depth of their repentance and faith; especially when Jesus often called them “an evil generation.” The Mosaic Covenant was a mixed covenant of the visible and invisible, unbelievers and believers. In Jesus day there were few true Jews. Yet during His ministry, slowly, many began to believe in Him as the promised Messiah/King (or be positively inclined toward Him). Some overtly followed Him (11/12 disciples) and some secretly (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea). The best phrase to describe this group would be “the faithful remnant.” (Mal 3:16–18).
As the New Covenant was fully inaugurated through Jesus’ life/death/resurrection/ascension/Pentecost the Jews of the faithful remnant were the ones who embraced Jesus as their Messiah/King. It began with the 120, grew by 3000 at Pentecost, then by others (Acts 2:47), five thousand (Acts 4:4), etc (this continues with the later missionary journeys). Until Acts 8–11:19 the New Covenant community was exclusively ethnically Jewish. It was made up of ethnic Jews who were true Jews through faith.
As time progressed, and as Gentiles were added to this body, various names developed: disciples, believers, followers of the Way, Christians, etc. It was becoming clear that the New Covenant community was different from that of the Old Covenant community. The linguistic challenge is Paul was a Jew ethnically but not a Jew [in the old covenant sens] religiously or spiritually, yet was a true Jew because he believed! He was a Jew but not an “unbelieving Jew” (Acts 14:2).
In Ro 2, to show the ethnic-religious Jews were lost and in need of saving, Paul said those who trust in Jesus, Jew and Gentile, are the true Jews. Thus, while we may speak of ethnic or religious Jews or members of Judaism today the true Jews are all those who follow Jesus and are part of the people of God, the New Covenant community.
A similar article is titled, Galatians & Israel
 Jew can mean: of the tribe of Judah, resident of Judea, a synonymn for Israel, ethnic descendants of Abraham, those who practice Judaism or God’s people.
In the wider Christian world you will find varied views on Creation ranging from an historic six day creation to theistic evolution and everything in between. Certainly God as creator, creation ex nilo (out of nothing), the existence of Adam and Eve, a Fall, etc, are all primary views. “I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth” the Apostles Creed says. However, is the how as important? How did God create the world? This—in my view, strictly speaking—is a secondary matter; yet nevertheless so indispensable to the Gospel that it borders on being a primary matter and hence worthy of our attention.
The absence of an historic six-day creation has at least 5 implications for the Gospel:
1. Is it reliable?
Many treat Gen 1–11 as if it were pre-history, somehow in a different category to the rest of Genesis and in this way able to reckon Genesis with science. (Even though literarily those chapters are written in the same Hebrew narrative style; it’s all meant to be viewed as history).
When Jesus spoke about creation in relation to His teaching on divorce He (the Creator) cited it as if the narrative were true, “He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female…” (Mt 19:4). If we want people to believe the rest of the Bible, including the Gospel, we must remain committed to the trustworthiness of its foundation.
2. The basis of the Gospel’s backbone (a biblical worldview).
Every story stands or falls upon the story that came before it. Genesis answers questions of origins and lays the foundation for biblical doctrines. If you remove the story’s foundation you jeopardize the story itself.
For example the 9 Cs have often been used to simplify the overarching story of the Bible:
However if Gen 1–11 (even 12) are not real events in some meaningful way then this is all you are left with:
The Gospel story then stands on shaking ground.
3. The impact on other fundamental beliefs.
The Creation account, as we’re seeing more and more in our culture, matters for other fundamental Christian beliefs, most notably gender and sexuality. Both Jesus and Paul root their theology of gender and sexuality in Genesis. Churches most impacted by cultural views on these subjects also tend to have the most fluidity when it comes to their views of Genesis.
4. The origin of death.
This is crucial. The Bible clearly says in multiple places that death came as a result of sin (e.g. Ro 6:23a). That can only be true if the narrative in Genesis is true. The moment you allow for an old earth you admit death before the Fall. The whole Gospel revolves around Jesus being the solution to death that resulted from the Fall that didn’t exist beforehand.
5. The first and second Adam.
There are other theories as to how Adam was really the first man, however, how is Paul to be taken at His word that Adam was the father of all peoples (Acts 17:26) if in fact he wasn’t. Add to this Christ as the second Adam (1 Cor 15:45, c.f. v. 21–22) who through faith becomes our federal head so we no longer suffer from the effects of the first Adam.
So questions of Creation are not simply a peripheral issue to be avoided because in our culture it happens to be controversial; with gentleness and respect we must insist upon its great Gospel significance.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.
(Matthew 5:17, Sermon on the Mount)
What did Jesus mean here? How did Christ fulfil the Law? What does that mean for the Law itself?
Christ Fulfilled the Law
The Law can mean: a) God’s decrees, b) Scripture, c) a Covenant, d) the Mosaic Covenant (or Covenant with Israel at Sinai), or e) God’s moral law. Given the context in the Sermon on the Mount it is almost certainly “d,” the Mosaic Law; yet with a twist.
To abolish means to unyoke, as in unyoking an animal from a cart. As such it means to break or destroy what was.
To fulfil means is to be full or to meet.
The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day feared He was a religious revolutionary who would upset their cherished possession, or rather their misinterpretations and additions (Mt 23:4; Mk 7:7), for Jesus, being perfect, never broke God’s Law. He would be much more radical and still more conservative than they thought.
Christ fulfilled the Law by doing what Adam, doing what the descendants of Abraham, and of Israel and the Kings could not do—be that perfect covenant partner. No human can by their works “fulfil the Laws demands” (“Rock of Ages”).
Christ could fulfil the Law, as Matthew is keen to point out, because He was the lawgiver greater than Moses.
The New Covenant
In fulfilling, or meeting, the demands of previous covenants, Jesus inaugurated the promised New Covenant (Jer 31:31; Ezk 36; Heb 8 et al).Jesus’ life and ministry marked a watershed or transition period between the covenants (it was inter-covenantal). When He died the veil was torn. After He ascended the Spirit was given. There is a newness in the New Covenant. New (kainos) means something new in kind, like a new invention; it isn’t new (neos) as in a new type of car but a new form of travel like a teleporter. (The NC doesn’t abolish, replace or succeed the Old, it fulfils the promises of the Law and Prophets. It is the direct continuation of God’s plans).
According to Gal 3:15–29 the Law of Moses was temporary and served the purpose of exposing our sin and making the promise to Abraham essential. It also has a guiding quality.
As such certain aspects of the Law of Moses were no longer necessary. Since Christ was the sacrifice for sin and the Holy Spirit now made believers the living temple of His presence the Temple was obsolete and hence the ceremonial system. The dietary laws (an external sign of holiness) were no longer necessary for Christ taught that holiness flowed from Christ’s imputation and through a new heart cleansed from within by the Spirit. (Scripture emphatically declares this in Mk 7:19b, “Thus He declared all foods clean,” c.f. Acts 10). Circumcision as the covenant sign gave way to baptism, the Passover to the Lord’s Supper (Lk 22:20), and so the list could go on.
A Law Remains (The Law of Christ or Moral Law)
How then could Jesus say in Mt 5:18, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Likewise, how could he commend the “scribes and Pharisees” pursuit of righteousness, or holiness, (v. 19), and state this legal righteousness was needed to enter the Kingdom? (Truly, Christ is our righteousness and the Spirit enables us to live righteously, thus guaranteeing our place in the Kingdom, both present and eternal).
In saying that He would fulfil the Law of Moses and yet the law would never pass away Jesus is commending to us the Law of Christ, or the Moral Law (Gal 5:14, 6:2). While the Law of Moses as a whole has been fulfilled in Christ, a law remains which is the moral law found within it (see 2nd London Baptist Confession, ch. 19, for the classic Christian understanding of the threefold division of the Law). This is binding upon all believers to follow as our guide to holiness by the Spirit.
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