Thursday, July 29, 2010

Everything Old is New Again - Part Three

To understand what I am speaking about, you really need to start by reading
Everything Old is New Again -Part One, and
Everything Old is New Again -Part Two

First and foremost -
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Gal 5:1)
The NASB translates the same verse in this manner:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
When you read the context of this verse, you will see that Paul is addressing the need for circumcision (which, can be understood as Torah Keeping) among gentile believers. (Actually, the whole book is written as a rebuttal to those who have been taken in by teaching that says you must be circumcised to be a Christian, see Gal 1:1-6)

Let us start by looking specifically at eating clean foods:
I know that you are already familiar with the account of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). We all know that a letter was written to pass around among the new gentile believers regarding what laws they need to be keeping. But, I want to point out just a few verses that - coming from my experience in Torah Keeping - really catch my attention!
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. (Acts 15:28-29 - emphasis added)
Do you see that? Paul is acknowledging that, to these new gentile believers, trying to keep the Law is a burden! And, they made a collective decision regarding which portions of the law are most important. The biblical rules for eating, therefore, become much less strict and complex! And, what is more - the gentiles rejoiced greatly upon the receiving and reading of this letter!
So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.  (Acts 15:30-31 - emphasis added)
I don't think that the average Christian understands the impact of these verses!!! Unless you have actually tried to keep a diet of only biblical foods in our culture of pre-packaged foods which all contain some form of "unclean" food or another, you cannot know what a relief this edict from the Jerusalem Council brings!!!

Now, I want to move to another portion of Acts, the account of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10-11). This story is of course very common, and Christians often (sometimes ignorantly) use these verses to bash Torah Keepers upside the head. I say "sometimes ignorantly" because Paul and I were rebuked by a number of people who were walking contradictions, choosing to keep some Old Testament Laws, but completely ignoring others. But, today, I want to look at something that I had perhaps overlooked before. My eyes were just recently opened to these verses in while re-reading Acts.

But first, let me say that I do not deny that Peter's own stated interpretation of his vision was that no man should be called unclean.
God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Acts 10:29 (emphasis added)
But, I contend that the vision had a double meaning, and that Peter himself understood this. Look in this same story in chapter 11. See specifically verses 2-3:
And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. (Acts 11:2-3 emphasis added)
Not only did Peter go into Cornelius' house, he ate with him! Do you think Cornelius ate "clean" foods? I doubt it. But, if this text is not proof enough that Peter now believes that he can dine with gentiles, see also Galatians 2 (understanding that Cephas is Peter).
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-13 emphasis added)
I cut off that portion halfway through, we will come back to it later. I believe the Bible teaches that our salvation is not dependent upon eating the right foods. Our salvation is not purchased by our deeds, but through the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah - Jesus.

More to come in Everything Old is New Again - Part Four.

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