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Featured Matthew 5:17-20 and Acts 15:5-29

Discussion in 'General Theology' started by food4thought, Jul 7, 2019.

  1. food4thought

    food4thought Loving truth Supporter

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    Hello everyone! I am wondering how different theological traditions reconcile these two passages. Please let me know what tradition you are from and how you go about making sense of this apparent contradiction.

    God bless you!
    Michael
     
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  2. -57

    -57 Well-Known Member

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    What is the issue?
     
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  3. Jonaitis

    Jonaitis Well-Known Member

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    I'm assuming that you believe the contradiction lies in the fact that the "party of the Pharisees" (Acts 15:5) discussed the necessity of circumcision and the keeping of the Law of Moses to newly converted Gentiles, but then we see the council in Jerusalem compromise on the matter, while Jesus in Matthew 5 says that he did not come to abolish the Law of Moses but fulfill it.

    First, the early church was by majority Jews by birth/conversion. Many of them still met together in synagogues (that turned into churches), abstained from ceremonially unclean animals, and kept other precepts in the Law that they were brought up in. Some of the Gentiles that had no other background but pagan, and were converted to the faith, began to be a pressuring issue with the party of some who held strong views of keeping many of the precepts of the Law. However, to solve this matter without forcing what no longer is in force to a group of people that had no relation to it was the Noahide Laws. These were seven laws by tradition that Jews prescribed to converts, since it was believed that only Jews should keep the whole Law. Bringing this particular tradition, accepted strongly by the Jewry, into the church kept the various churches with mixed congregations quiet and happy.

    In the passage in Matthew, Jesus talks about fulfilling the purpose of the Law's existence. He came to fulfill it until it is no longer necessary (as well as uphold the moral law's perpetual authority). To abolish the law and to fulfill it are different. The New Covenant didn't abolish the Old Covenant, it fulfilled its purpose until it was no longer necessary to be.
     
  4. LoreneDD

    LoreneDD ~Cassia~ Supporter

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    Yes, what issue.
    8 And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9 and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.

    15 This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,

    16

    ‘After this I will return,

    and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen;

    from its ruins I will rebuild it,

    and I will set it up,

    17

    so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—

    even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.

    Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things 18 known from long ago.’
     
  5. -57

    -57 Well-Known Member

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    Jesus said" 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
    The scribes and Pharisees did a lot to try and keep the law. Very purposeful in what they were doing.

    The law is still there and if we can keep the law...never failing...we would be saved. But, as you know man is a fallen creature and can't even come close to keeping the law. Fortunatly Jesus fulfilled the law in our place.
     
  6. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Jesus and Paul get to the same place. Paul believed that the Law was not binding on Christians. Jesus seemed to accept a continuing significance, but looked behind the Law to its intent. You can see that by the paragraphs following 5:17. Both end up with practice that is non-legalistic.

    But it's also worth noting that Jesus was talking to Jews, and Paul was talking to non-Jews. So a different approach would be appropriate. Even fairly strict Jews didn't think that the whole world was to be circumcised. It was a sign of the Jewish people. Acts was about non-Jews. Might Jesus have believed that in order to become his follower you had to become Jewish? It doesn't appear so. In Matthew 8, Jesus praises a centurion as a model of faith. He would not have been circumcised. I think 8:10 makes it clear that he's a non-Jew.
     
  7. Jonaitis

    Jonaitis Well-Known Member

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    This verse refers to our actual living in righteousness, not our standing before God. But, you are right, Jesus fulfilled the law in our stead by perfect obedience and suffering the consequences under it.
     
  8. food4thought

    food4thought Loving truth Supporter

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    One passage (Mat 5) says we have to keep the whole Law of Moses (down to the least pen stroke), while the other (Acts 15) tells us that there are only a few commands from the Law of Moses that we as Gentiles must obey. Which of these passages are we to follow?
     
  9. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Yes, but what is living in righteousness? Jesus is about to replace the literal 10 commandments with an emphasis on intent. So it's very unlikely that the righteousness that exceeds the Pharisees means carrying out the details of the Law better. Rather, it's complying with Jesus' reinterpretation of the Law.
     
  10. Jonaitis

    Jonaitis Well-Known Member

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    Jesus is referring to righteous living.

    The Pharisees and scribes were known for their hypocritical and cherry-picking lifestyle. They were good at keeping the minor details of the Law (tithing, circumcising, etc), but they left out the greater details of the Law (mercy, justice, love, etc). In this verse, in context, Jesus is saying that unless your righteousness is better than that religious crowd who did what they did for show, then you are not even a Christian. If a "Christian" cannot live better than a Pharisee, then he will not be saved. This is not to say that we are saved by works, but that our works prove that we are saved. Saved individuals should be living better than empty professors of religion, that's what Jesus is saying...
     
  11. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Right. That's the better kind of righteousness Jesus is referring to.
     
  12. food4thought

    food4thought Loving truth Supporter

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    Hi Jonaitis! Thanks for replying!

    Your assessment is close... Jesus says that we must keep even the least of the commandments in the Law of Moses (obviously meaning the whole Law), while the Jerusalem council decided only a few commandments were to apply to the Gentiles.

    I was aware of most of that, but thanks for the reminder... I've heard of the Noahide Laws, but am not sure what they are. If there were 7, why did the Apostles only include 4 in the letter?

    That's an interesting thought. I have always been skeptical of dividing the Law into moral and ceremonial categories, though (James 2:10).

    You are of the Reformed tradition, correct?
     
  13. food4thought

    food4thought Loving truth Supporter

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    Not sure about that, but I'm willing to listen.

    Right.

    That's a bit of an understatement, given Matthew 5:19.

    Could you elaborate on that... not sure I follow.

    I agree.

    The strict Jews, from what I have heard, felt the gentiles were only fuel for the fires of hell. And it seems the believing Pharisees thought they should (Acts 15:5).

    Acts was primarily the story of the fulfillment of the great commission. Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.

    I agree.
     
  14. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    It depends upon the Gentile, and to some extent the Jew. The Jewish tradition, back to the OT, is hard on idolaters. See Rom 1 for an example (though I think Paul is actually quoting it to refute it). But there was a category of Gentile that believed in the one God, but hadn't fully converted to Judaism. They often hung around synagogues, and were considered part of the community. See Luke 7:4 about the Centurion: "He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.”"

    Some Jewish interpreters took God's covenant with Noah after the flood as an example. This was before the giving of the Law, so Noah was in some sense a Gentile. Jewish interpreters found 7 laws in that story. (Actually, there were varying numbers depending upon the interpreter.) They defined what righteous Gentiles needed to do.

    It's pretty clear that the Centurion, as well as the Gentiles in Paul's churches and the Acts passage, were righteous Gentiles. That is, they accepted the Jewish God, but hadn't been circumcized. It's also clear that not all Jews agreed, which may be why some in the early church wanted people to convert to Judaism before becoming Christians.
     
  15. Dkh587

    Dkh587 David דויד Supporter

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    The Jerusalem Council responds to 2 claims made by 2 different groups.

    Claim from group #1(men from Judah) Acts 15:1 - you cannot be saved unless you are circumcised

    Claim from group #2(Pharisees who believe in the Messiah) Acts 15:5 Gentiles should be obeying the Law.


    Peter addresses claim #1, and explains that Gentiles and Israelites are saved in the same way: by faith Acts 15:7-11

    James addresses the claim that Gentiles should obey the law Acts 15:13-21

    James gives them commandments to start with, because the Gentiles will hear the Law being ready every Sabbath and learn it over time. Obviously the few commands that he gave we’re not the only things expected of the Gentiles. He didn’t tell them abstain from witchcraft, for example.
     
  16. Jonaitis

    Jonaitis Well-Known Member

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    The Law of Moses was built for an ethno-theocratic society, there is no way Jesus meant that the Church throughout the world is to adhere to it. A majority of the law had to do with the nation of Israel exclusively, and does not relate to us. It not only dealt with their moral behavior, but their worship and judicial system. It was separate them outwardly from all other nations around them. For the Church, our holiness separates us from all other people in this world. We are not called to sacrifice sheep, goats and oxen. We are not called to wear fabric of a single material. We are not called to stone idolaters. Their laws were built for that society, in a geographical location. The Church is not bound to these things. Israel was a carnal society, the Church is a spiritual one.

    Jesus refers to the Law of Moses as the Old Covenant in this place. In fact, if the Law of Moses is still intact, then the Old Covenant in which it is a part of is still intact and that there is no "New" Covenant.

    Good question, I suppose the real issues in the Church were found in four of the seven laws, not sure. Also, there were different versions of the Noahide laws, so I suppose the ones prescribed must not have been universal at all, but maybe concerning the Jews of that region at that time.

    The moral law pre-existed the Law of Moses. It was already known that murder, theft, adultery, and idolatry were wrong long before God delivered the written code through Moses. Since every covenant always includes moral accountability, it is understood that with or without the covenant we are obligated to God morally. There is a law that is transcendent to covenants. Even though circumcision isn't an obligation to Australian aboriginals, honoring your parents (or any higher authority) is still required by God. It is a universal code that every covenant adds, and every human falls under. The written code established it in writing, and when we refer to the moral obligation of the law we often refer to the Law of Moses in the New Testament, because that's where it was officially written for all people. Before that time, it was known in the heart, but now it is known in writing, and that through the Law of Moses. This is one reason we separate it...

    Yes, I am Reformed.
     
  17. Maria Billingsley

    Maria Billingsley Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Jesus was making a point that no one can keep the law and if they think they can, it must be greater than the ability of the scribe and Pharisee to do so, in which they claimed they did, but did not, so even they were not righteous enough.
    Christ was making a hyperbolic statement.He was overstating the truth so that all will know they need redemption. No one walked away with a sense of security by obeying the Law, Jesus just made it much harder to do so. He did this quite often to prove a point like, cut off your hand, gouge your eye out or just thinking about a sin condemned you as if you committed it. All this to prove the weakness of the flesh and that the coming Holy Spirit is the only answer to redemption and regeneration. It is the only way to achieve righteousness and restore the relationship that perished with Adam and Eve.
     
  18. eleos1954

    eleos1954 God is Love Supporter

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    Jesus begins this section with the assurance that He has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Matt. 5:17, NKJV). Although there is no reference to it, many see this as a formulaic expression for the entire Old Testament (see also Matt. 7:12, 11:13, 22:40,Luke 16:16, Acts 13:15, 24:14, Rom. 3:21). In spite of what His opponents claimed, Jesus did not attack the very book that revealed the will of His Father. Instead, His purpose was to fulfill the law and the prophets, not to do away with them.

    The word used for fulfill (plero) literally means to fill up, or complete. It carries the sense of filling to the brim. There are two ways to understand fulfill. One is to place the emphasis on Jesus as being the fulfillment of Scripture (for example, Luke 24:25-27, John 5:39). However, the key to understanding this text lies in the immediate context, which shows that Jesus did not come to destroy Scripture but to *reveal its inner essence. (ie giving more detail)

    Having established His overall intent, Jesus switched emphasis from the Old Testament in general to the law in particular (10 Commandments). Almost as if He knew that people would one day accuse Him of abolishing the law (the 10), He cautions that as long as heaven and earth remain, the law (10 Commandments) will exist until everything is accomplished (Matt. 5:18, NIV). With this statement, Jesus confirms the perpetuity of the law. He helps us to overcome and keep the law, we can not keep them without Him. This is how one starts being transformed into His image and we do strive to do so out of Love for Him and for no other reasons.

    John 14
    14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. 15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

    In fact, the law is so important that all those who violate its precepts will be called the least in the kingdom. Jesus is quick to point out that He is not promoting the empty righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees but instead a righteousness springing from a heart that loves God and seeks to do His will. He was saying that they (the Pharisees) are wrong in what they are doing.

    * Example: (revealing inner essences of law)

    Murder (Matt. 5:21-26)
    After He clarified His intention to uphold the law, Jesus started to explain a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. He begins by citing the sixth commandment (Exod. 20:13) and summarizing, from the law of Moses, the penalty for violation (Exod. 21:12, Lev. 24:17).

    The sixth commandment does not include all cases in which one person kills another. In cases of manslaughter, a person could flee to a city of refuge and gain temporary asylum (Exod. 21:13, Num. 35:12). However, one who intentionally took another's life would receive swift judgment. In His explanation, Jesus does not focus on the act itself but on the motive and intents of the one who commits the act. One might take a life accidentally, but the person who purposes to take a life has gone through a period of deliberation. The sin took place before the person even carried out the terrible deed. Many potential murderers are stopped only by a lack of opportunity.

    Jesus provided inner detail/explanation of Law (the 10), He did not abolish them. He filled the Law fuller, magnified the law, provided more detail about the law (the 10).

    In Acts 15 (ceremonial/sacrificial law)

    Some Jewish believers expected Gentiles to be circumcised and “to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). It could be that, according to them, Gentiles would be keeping the law of Moses by being circumcised, but perhaps they had in mind something else. Peter seems to suggest that the problem included ritual laws of uncleanliness. Speaking of the Gentiles, he says that God “made no distinction between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), purifying their hearts by faith” (verse 9). In other words, God did for both Jews and Gentiles what the ritual ceremonial laws could not do, i.e., He purified their hearts (Acts 10:15; 11:9).

    What laws were abolished? the ceremonial/sacrificial laws

    The ceremonial law consisted of ordinances, ceremonies and sacrifices in the sanctuary system that pointed to the future redemption through Jesus Christ. This law typified the mysteries contained in the plan of redemption in Jesus.

    After Christ’s death, the ceremonial law is no longer to be observed. Therefore "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:(excluding the 7th day Sabbath, because it's part of the 10) Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:14-17). The laws consisting in ordinances, typifying Christ’s death were the ones nailed on the cross, "having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace" (Ephesians 2:15). "For the law having a shadow of good things to come (pointing to Christ), and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect" (Hebrews 10:1).

    Very important when the word law or laws appears in scripture to read in context carefully to determine what law or laws are being referred to.

    I have no tradition, no denomination, I love the Lord and I study His Word and depend on Him to guide me through day by day.

    Apologize for the post being so long. ;o) God Bless.
     
  19. Strong in Him

    Strong in Him I can do all things through Christ Supporter

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    No he didn't.
    Jesus said that he had come to fulfil the law. The Jewish law, with its sacrificial system and laws about foods etc that would make you clean and holy, was fulfilled in Jesus. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, John 1:29; it is by his blood that we are forgiven and cleansed, 1 John 1:7-9, not the blood of goats and bulls, Hebrews 10:4, Hebrews 9:13. Jesus also taught that it is not what we put into our mouths that makes us unclean, but what comes out of it - our words, attitudes etc, Mark 7:14-15.
    If anyone had been able to keep the Jewish law correctly and 100% perfectly, of course they would have been great in the kingdom of heaven - doing God's will and command 24/7. But the fact is that no one was able to keep it perfectly; Jesus is the only person who has been perfect and lived perfectly.
    If we follow, obey and receive Jesus, our righteousness DOES exceed that of the Pharisees, because they rejected him; their Messiah, the Son of God and Holy One of Israel. Paul says that Jesus became sin for us so that IN HIM we might become the righteousness of God, 2 Corinthians 5:21. Only in Christ are we reconciled to God, Romans 5:11, have peace with God, Romans 5:1 and are forgiven and cleansed, 1 John 1:9. Only in Christ do we have every spiritual blessing, Ephesians 1:3. Jesus alone is the One who saves, Acts of the Apostles 4:12, gives eternal life, John 3:16, John 3:36, John 6:40 and gives us his Spirit. It is through the Spirit that we are born again, John 3:3, and without being born again we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Even keeping the Jewish law perfectly could not have brought all these blessings. If they had managed it, they would have known what it was to live with God as their king - obeying him, walking with him, trusting him etc etc. But as people proved, time and time again, it was impossible to keep the Jewish law perfectly.

    When the Apostles preached the Gospel there were Jews who said, "yes, but Gentiles STILL have to be circumcised before they can be saved." This was false teaching, the church discussed it in Acts 15 and Paul later taught strongly against it. At this point, the early church were almost all Jews and they were still working out how their new faith in Jesus fitted with what they had always been taught regarding holiness etc. It's possible that they thought that refraining from eating meat with blood in it - which had always been forbidden for them - was still sensible and to be obeyed. In time, though, they dropped even this; Paul taught that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, 1 Corinthians 8:8. He taught that food offered to idols means nothing, since idols are nothing, and it didn't matter whether a person ate meat offered to idols or not. I don't see this as a contradiction of Acts 15:29 - only evidence that his faith had developed, grown and his understanding of it and the Jewish law, had changed.
     
  20. food4thought

    food4thought Loving truth Supporter

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    Hi, LoreneDD!

    I am not sure what you are trying to say here. And what theological tradition are you from?

    God bless;
    Michael
     
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