23 Apr 2019

“The Commandments”: The Union of God’s Story

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Hebrew Bible, Hermeneutics, Patternism

I do not want to exaggerate when I say many disciples of the Messiah are functional Marcionites. Though the apostolic writers, there is not an exception, appeal to the Hebrew Bible as authority on a routine basis for directing the “New Testament” church, modern believers cringe at this. In fact many hold that there is nothing of binding value in the “Old Testament” on Christians today. As one correspondent told me, the apostles never appeal to the “Old Testament” for doctrinal purposes.

I have argued many times that the New Testament would not exist without the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible is the source of the God, the Story, the People, the Hope, the Ethics and even the very Words of the New Testament. Scripture is single and beautifully interrelated whole.

Today I compiled a list of commands, in response to a note, that are given in the “Old Testament” that are as binding on Christians as they were were Israelites.

But you ask what law in the Hebrew Bible still applies today. Here are some commands that apply to us today, the list is illustrative not exhaustive.

Love the Lord with all your heart
Love your neighbor
Be holy as I am holy
Have no god before Yahweh
Do not worship idols
Do not misuse God’s name
Honor your Parents
Do not murder
Do not commit adultery
Do not steal
Do not covet
Do not seek revenge
Bless your enemies
Honor the lowly
Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him
Honor the family of God

So many caricature the Hebrew Bible. “Do we keep all 613 commandments!?”

This is a statement that is rooted in either deception or ignorance. There are not 613 commands in the Hebrew Bible that any Israelite had to keep. The vast majority of commands in the Torah are what people today would call “case law.” That is that rule only applied under certain circumstances. Most of the laws would never apply to all Israelites. Then there is the infamous book of Leviticus. Leviticus as a whole never applied to average Israelites, rather it is instruction to priests and Levites on decorum in and around the Tabernacle/Temple. But none of the commands of Torah are divorced or isolated from the Story of God’s loving grace in which he first rescues Israel.

Moses answers directly what the Lord demanded in Deuteronomy 10.12-22.

“So now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? … to love him … To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 1Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Love God. Circumcise our hearts. Love aliens.

Off the top of my head I cannot think of a single directive given by Jesus or the apostles that did not first appear in the Hebrew Bible. And these directives are applied to disciples of Jesus not simply because they are brought into the “new/renewed covenant” but directly as commands of God.

For example, James applies Leviticus 19.18 to disciples of Jesus directly because it is “according to scripture” (James 2.8). James does not quote Jesus, though he could have. He quotes the Law of Moses.

Paul offers “the commandments” in Romans and cites the “Ten Commandments” as “you shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet” (13.8ff). Paul quotes, like James, Leviticus and says all these are loving our neighbor and “fulfilling the law.” Paul has no qualms in Ephesians 6.1 that the “first commandment” is directly applicable to Gentile disciples. Paul gives no indication that he considers these commands as binding only because he has reiterated them. Rather Paul quotes Scripture.

So yes there are commands in the Hebrew Bible that apply to us as disciples of the Messiah. Again I cannot think of a directive given by the apostles to anyone that did not come from the Hebrew Bible.

The Hebrew Bible, just like the “New Testament” is approached hermeneutically. Neither the Torah nor the New Testament documents simply fell out of heaven to be binding in all places at all times regardless of circumstances. But Paul considered the Hebrew Bible to be authoritative for the life and teaching of the people of God.

So again, I cannot think of a command in the “New Testament” given to disciples of the King of the Jews that does not first appear in the Hebrew Bible. I may be mistaken but I cannot think of it.

One Response to ““The Commandments”: The Union of God’s Story”

  1. john acuff Says:

    as usual you make me think and as I approach my 79 birthday that becomes more of a task but thank you.

Leave a Reply