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stillseeking

Harmonizing Paul and the Twelve

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30 minutes ago, Tristen said:

(Stillseeking said:) “Doing God's commandments, just like Yeshua said, isn't pleasing to God?

Correct. Only Jesus could please God through unfailing righteous behaviour. He did so on our behalf because He knows we are incapable of attaining righteousness by our behaviour.

Totally wrong.  Sorry.   Oh, it is correct we cannot "attain righteousness" by keeping TORAH,  but if someone rejects TORAH they also reject all that Jesus taught, as well as Moses,  Abraham,  John, Peter and Paul and all the messengers of YHVH.  

Why you or anyone thinks they or anyone might obtain righteousness by observing TORAH is a mystery,   

but even more a mystery is why you or anyone thinks they can reject YHVH'S WORD and disobey Him on purpose and continue instead like (or as) the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2) or worse and thus obey hasatan and still be saved.

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13 hours ago, simplejeff said:

Totally wrong.  Sorry.   Oh, it is correct we cannot "attain righteousness" by keeping TORAH,  but if someone rejects TORAH they also reject all that Jesus taught, as well as Moses,  Abraham,  John, Peter and Paul and all the messengers of YHVH.  

Why you or anyone thinks they or anyone might obtain righteousness by observing TORAH is a mystery,   

but even more a mystery is why you or anyone thinks they can reject YHVH'S WORD and disobey Him on purpose and continue instead like (or as) the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2) or worse and thus obey hasatan and still be saved.

Hi Jeff,

I haven't rejected or intentionally disobeyed any of God's Word - I have simply applied it in its explicitly intended context.

Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:24-25)

As a single, adult male, scriptures addressed to husbands, children, women and wives are not meant for me. I can learn from them, but I am not obligated to, or judged by them. Likewise, as a Christian under the New Covenant of grace, I can learn from the Old Covenant of Law, however, I am not obligated to, or judged by the Old Covenant of Law (which was explicitly between God and the nation of Israel).

Paul also states in "Ephesians 2" that Jesus “14 … is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Hebrews 8

1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.

3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. 4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

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Your initial argument was a suggestion to exclude Paul, but accept the Gospels as scripture. In order to determine scripture we need to have a set of standards (aka a canon or measure). You are arguing to exclude Paul because his inclusion would have to be accepted by fallible humans. For me, that is an unreasonably rigid standard – since no text could ever be accepted as scripture by that standard (including the Gospels).

Not exactly: I'm unsure of Paul.  I don't really have a position, except skepticism of modern Christian ideas which seem to contradict the practices and beliefs of the very earliest.  I mentioned that canons differ because they indeed do, showing that there isn't just "one canon" we can trust.  I don't see a problem with this, and neither did the early church who didn't even have the concept of of official NY canons.  God never seems to make things obvious.  We are told to test everything, and indeed with so many conflicting ideas of what is true, I don't see how you can form a belief in anything at all without looking at all of the evidence available. 

Again, if canons can be fallible at all, then one person's writings appearing in any or all of them is not valid evidence of it being truth.  That is the only point of the mention of canons, and it still stands. 

My goal was to understand how Paul and the twelve could be harmonized, and as I stated a few posts ago, the current evidence I have DOES allow me to see some level of harmonization between Paul and the twelve IF we can say that Paul was Torah observant and taught Torah observance...and, the more I read, the more I see evidence of such. 

I change my beliefs when the opposite position presents more compelling evidence to the contrary.  That said, my views have already shifted somewhat over the course of this thread (to seeing Paul as probably more Torah observant than I originally thought...which puts him at fewer odds with the apostles).  I restate this from before. 

"Apart from the book of Acts, there is not much historical information in scripture about the specific behaviour of the early church – and Acts tends to focus on Paul. But I think it's fair to say that both Peter and Luke explicitly endorsed Paul through scripture."

And this is where I struggle.  Gentiles in synagogues on sabbaths and kept Jewish holy days and other Jewish customs.  How would it make ANY sense to assume a position that doing the opposite of that is correct?  We have supposedly tons of writings from the apostolic successors of the early churches...but even when I start reading THEM, I learn that people like Polycarp kept 7th day Sabbath as well as biblical feasts!  My skepticism that abandoning Jewish practices is somehow correct still stands.  

Living in the way of what we see that the apostles actually DID seems like a much safer option than departing from it, so there would have to be some pretty hefty evidence to merit departing from it.  Again, I wish there were--Jewish laws require a lot of commitment.  God wants commitment, though.  He wants us to love him with our "whole heart and strength". 

"In light of all that support, arguing for a special rejection of Paul (whilst accepting other scriptures like the Gospels) speaks to an underlying motive against Paul."

Again, no.  It proves that I test everything.  I'm still nailing down the specifics of what I can accept as true in a lot of this. 

"And if you believe the Damascus road account, Jesus did personally choose Paul. Furthermore, neither was Luke one of the twelve (nor Jude)."

I'm skeptical of it.  Reasons for such already stated.  

"Jesus was obligated to teach the Law."

If he was obligated, by whom was he obligated?  By God.  I think I'll listen to his words.  Why would we not? 

"And what do we really need to do to “inherit eternal life”? Jesus said “come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (verse 21)."

Which, by the way, is incredibly vague.  Following Yeshua means doing the things he taught.  What are some of the things he taught?  Stuff like following the Mosaic laws: "1Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples: 2“The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So practice and observe everything they tell you." (Matthew 23:2)  You've already admitted that he taught the law.  I do not see a case for those teachings being nullified.  (And again, I'd love to...but I have to believe what the evidence supports, not what I *wish* were true.)

"The Law does not tell us "HOW" to love God"

Then what are these?
"3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:1)

"Not those who are obedient to Law, but “whoever believes in Him”"

The obedience stems from the belief; else that "faith" has no works and is dead.  Obedience and belief are NOT mutually exclusive; indeed one comes from the other.  

It's a change in motive: we must be obedient BECAUSE we are saved, not because obedience COULD save us.  

I see nowhere that obedience is no longer requested.  Yeshua again, even affirms that those who love him will keep his commandments.  (John 14:15)

" Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18)
At some point, we have to trust that God is involved in the preservation and passage of the church."

According to which tradition, though?  The apostles seeded many churches, and there are a few denominations which claim absolute apostolic succession and yet have different traditions.  Furthermore, compare their CURRENT beliefs to those expressed in the letters of the early churches and see that there are a lot of teachings TODAY that just weren't part of the early church or which differ from the early churches.  The truth is buried, if it's preserved in a denomination at all.  

So sure, I can accept that the truth is there.  But where?  Everyone has a different answer.  

"But whatever standard we apply, we are rationally obligated to apply it consistently. Paul's preservation in the church throughout church history is one of many lines of evidence presented to you in this thread."

In what sense, though?  Because now, remember, we've introduced the concept that the harmonization of Paul with the twelve might have to include a higher level of Torah observance.  I made mention of that in an earlier post or two as well.  

That and again, pagan customs made their way into just about every church in existence today.  I already mentioned this--Christmas and Easter are pagan, as are wedding rings and even the requirement of government or church weddings in order for a couple to be truly "married"--and yet, these things are also generally accepted by churches.  Again, we can't accept something just because it's widespread.  

" “I still ask why Paul (or at least the traditional understanding of Paul, as mainstream Christians believe) should be valid instead of the Jewish/apostolic Kingdom message that the apostles were given by Yeshua” (me)

You have been presented with many lines of evidence supporting Paul's inclusion in scripture – some of which exceed standard of evidence available for the other works of the New Testament. "" (you)

That's not the question I asked.  This was about the traditional understanding of Paul (no Jewish customs) versus the Jewish kingdom message.  If we believe Paul's message was the same, then there's no issue.  Again, as I've stated many times before, seeing Paul as a Torah observant Jew is the closest I can see to him being harmonized with the rest of the NT.  I care about the truth, and if Paul happens to agree with it, then great.  If not, then in such a case I'd have to reject anything not matching up with the truth.  

" And Paul wrote;

1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, (Rom 1:1-3)

So Paul passes the test. "

How?  Because Paul says that he himself is legit, he's legit?  How is that not circular reasoning?  

"You are claiming to be simply testing Paul, but you are scrutinising Paul against a much higher critical standard than other scriptures (which you seem to accept). The only reason to adopt this inconsistent approach is that you have an existing predisposition to reject Paul."

I'll take the words of an eye witness (apostles) over a secondary witness who never met Yeshua any day, and that's a logical thing to do.  Test a secondary witness' validity by seeing if it lines up with the eye witness.  Paul's claim to knowing about the truth is through a vision...and just how many false religions were started by that exact method?  So indeed let's test such an absurd-sounding thing and see if it matches up with the truth of the eye witnesses.  I can accept him if he matches with the eye witnesses' truth.  

" “Maybe I'm missing something from Torah, but where in the Torah does it prohibit a Jew from visiting the house of a Gentile? There certainly were Pharisee traditions (law of men) prohibiting such things.” (me)

There are many dietary and hygiene laws that would make concerting with gentiles difficult, but the point of the vision to Peter was that God's new path of salvation is also offered to those outside of the Law (i.e. non-Jews) – unlike the Law which was specific to Jews." (you)

Again I ask which Torah laws prohibit?  I'm still not aware of any, other than the traditions of men.  

I see no evidence of Peter breaking Torah to visit Gentiles, or of God commanding him to break Torah.  Do you have such evidence?  

"As previous discussed, morality (what is ultimately right and wrong) doesn't change with a new of covenant."  

Where was a distinction made, that "moral" laws should continue to apply and that others don't?  Furthermore, what distinguishes whether a law is "moral" or "other"?  I see no such distinctions.  Can you point to any?  

You mentioned Galatians 3:24-25.  Here's the passage in question:
"23 Before the coming of this faith,[a] we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian." (Galatians 3:23-25)

What does a guardian do for a child?  Things like teach them to take baths, study or work hard, be nice to his sister, etc.  As an adult, will the grown child STOP doing these specifics?  No--he just does them without having to be told anymore.  How then can the above be interpreted as saying that the things taught in the law no longer apply?  

"“Sin = transgression of the law” " (me)

"Only if you are under Law. For the rest of us, sin is a breach of God's holy standards (some of which are incidentally reflected in the Law)." (you)

Then why does 1 John 3:4 say "4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." ?

 “Doing God's commandments, just like Yeshua said, isn't pleasing to God?” (me)

"Correct." (you)

Then why did Paul go to such lengths to prove to the Jews that he still kept the laws, and why didn't the apostles ever stop practicing Jewish laws?  Or, if they did, please provide the source of this information.  I'll even take evidence that a legitimate direct successor of one of the apostles, whose teachings were approved by and handed down from the apostles, did so.  Again, I'd love to see such evidence, but I haven't found such.  

Furthermore, why would God ask for our obedience? 

"Really – show you a scripture detailing the Apostles “NOT” abstaining from a particular food? Do you think that's a reasonable standard by which to judge freedom from Law – a very specific double-negative? "

I'll even take scripture showing that they made a habit of abandoning any Torah laws.  Pork eating is just one example.  (And that's another issue entirely...because even Noah seemed to have a concept of which animals were "unclean" when he loaded them up on the ark...there's another thread on that somewhere)

"Apart from the Pauline texts, freedom from Law was specifically addressed in scripture through the issue of gentile Christians “NOT” being compelled to be circumcised (e.g. Acts 15)."

Maybe this is the verse you're thinking about:

"Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”" (Acts 15:1)

The people here were falsely claiming that circumcision was needed IN ORDER to be saved.  As gentile converts learned more and more about Torah, would they not be expected to become more and more accountable for new rules as they learned them?  Would they not be taught what sin is?  Is not sin transgression of the law? 

What was the meaning of James' suggestion to that regard in Acts 15:21, "21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”"  Did he not mean that these Gentiles would be in synagogue every Sabbath?  Did he not mean that these Gentiles would be learning the law of Moses?  

Obedience to God should be a natural result of faith, not the thing that saves you.  That seems to be the distinction here.  

Gentiles were permitted to learn their new rules gradually and comply as they learned more. 

"God told Noah (i.e. before the Law) that “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Gen 9:3)."

How did Noah know before the flood which animals were clean and unclean?  How long was it before God imposed the unclean animals restriction again?  Would God's temporary allowance of eating "everything" because there's no other food be similar to his permission, in early human history, to commit incest due to the severe lack of people on the planet to marry?  Weren't both temporary allowances due to dire circumstances?  

"I don't think consuming bacon was ever “declared an abomination”. Dietary laws are ritual, not moral – likely, in many cases, as a means to distinguish those in covenant with God from the idolatrous dietary practices of the pagan nations."

OK, you're mostly right--pigs are "unclean" and it's shellfish and a few others which are an "abomination".  Indeed some other meats are listed as being an "abomination".  Here's the passage which does indeed declare some meats as an "abomination":

"1Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, 2“Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Deut. 14:4; Ezek. 4:14; Dan. 1:8; (Matt. 15:11); Acts 10:12, 14; (Rom. 14:14; Heb. 9:10; 13:9)‘These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: 3Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat. 4Nevertheless these you shall Acts 10:14not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; 5the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; 6the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; 7and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, Is. 65:4; 66:3, 17; Mark 5:1–17is unclean to you. 8Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. Is. 52:11; (Mark 7:2, 15, 18); Acts 10:14, 15; 15:29They are unclean to you.
9Deut. 14:9‘These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers—that you may eat. 10But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an Lev. 7:18, 21; Deut. 14:3abomination to you. 11They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. 12Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales—that shall be an abomination to you.
13Deut. 14:12–19; Is. 66:17‘And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, 14the kite, and the falcon after its kind; 15every raven after its kind, 16the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; 17the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; 18the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; 19the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.
20‘All flying insects that creep on all fours shall be an abomination to you. 21Yet these you may eat of every flying insect that creeps on all fours: those which have jointed legs above their feet with which to leap on the earth. 22These you may eat: Matt. 3:4; Mark 1:6the locust after its kind, the destroying locust after its kind, the cricket after its kind, and the grasshopper after its kind. 23But all other flying insects which have four feet shall be an abomination to you." (Leviticus 11:1)

"There is no value in keeping rules never intended for you."  

Please demonstrate which Torah rules did and did not ever apply to Gentiles.  I am aware of the concept that some may not have applied, but unfamiliar with any that Gentiles are told not to follow.  

"But if you think your abstaining from bacon puts you in any better stead with God (in any sense) than those who eat bacon, then by logical extension, you imply that you have earned righteousness and favour by your own efforts."

Not really.  If people know God's commandments and break them, it's not really following his orders, is it?  How can one claim to follow God and then intentionally break his rules?  That's the only point here.  Your claim that I'm "setting aside grace" is unfounded and just false. 

" “Demonstrate how you believe the above [Rom 14:6] is regarding God's laws and not the Pharisee traditions that Yeshua AND the apostles preached against” (me)

"Can you demonstrate that it means one and not the other?" (you)

I don't need to.  I'm not the one making a claim that God changed any Torah laws.  You are claiming God stopped requiring Torah adherence.  This would have been an opportunity to prove that those verses supported your position, but you are also welcome to not support your position.  

"The Law was not given to humanity. It was given to Israel as a covenant between them and God. We can learn from the Law (namely regarding our inherent corruption and need for a Saviour), but the corruption of sin exists with or without the Law...The question we are discussing is whether or not the Law of Moses holds any authoritative sway over Christians. "

Which Torah laws applied to Gentiles living in the land?  Were we not "grafted onto Israel" and made a part of it?  

" “I am truly curious how you can come to this conclusion. The ten commandments are either about specifically how to love god or love your neighbor.” (me)

"Only if you define loving God as 'not worshipping anything or anyone above God', and only if you define loving “your neighbor” as not murdering them, not stealing from them, not lying to them, and not coveting their spouse or possessions. I mean, I agree that walking in love would self-evidently cover these laws – but the Law itself sets a pretty low bar for “love”. " (you)

Again, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).  The ten commandments are some of God's commandments.  Thus, they are part of what we must keep.  

"The influence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian (which Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” - Gal 5:22-23) teaches a Christian to walk in love, patience, goodness and kindness - without the need for the “specifics” to be “spelled out” in a list of rules."

Do you think there's a right and wrong way to behave?  Why do so many "spirit-led" Christians differ on these things?  Could having specifics help with this dilemma?  Did God ever give us specifics?  

"I'm not sure there is that much dispute among sincere, Bible-believing Christians as to what constitutes moral and immoral behaviour. "

Then your experience and mine differ greatly.  Even over the last few weekends, I've experienced differences in beliefs in various churches. 

" But “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16)"

Then who are the people referred to in Matthew 7:22?  These seem to be people who believed in Yeshua--and even did good deeds in him name--but ultimately get rejected.  What's the distinction between believers in John 3:16 and in Mattew 7:22?  

"You don't have “to do” anything."

Then why does it say (I know, I keep bringing this one up):
Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?  And then will I declare to them, I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness"

That's terrifying.  NOT all who just believe will be saved according to that.  This verse talks about people who THINK they are going to be saved because they called upon the name of the lord.  We have to get it right the first time.  So the specifics would be of UTMOST importance here...

Also, 1 John 2:4, "He who says, I know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

"I can fully understand how you might be depressed if you think you still have to perform to please God"

Of course, because Matthew 7:22 again.  There seems to be a lot of focus on following commandments in the Bible.  That's why stuff like this seems like a very dangerous position:

" Like children, we can relax in our Father's arms - knowing that we are already accepted because of what Jesus has done for us. "

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On 2/2/2018 at 3:40 PM, stillseeking said:

Not exactly: I'm unsure of Paul.  ...

You cite John quite a bit when appealing to keeping the “commandments”. E.g.

1 John 3:4 "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15)

1 John 2:4, "He who says, I know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

You assume that when John uses the word “commandments”, he means the Law of Moses. But you ignore John when he actually defines what he means.

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

1 John 2 :7 Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.

9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

1 John 3:23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

1 John 4:21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

2 John :5 And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. 6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.

 

why does it say (I know, I keep bringing this one up):

Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then will I declare to them, I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness"

That's terrifying. NOT all who just believe will be saved according to that. This verse talks about people who THINK they are going to be saved because they called upon the name of the lord. We have to get it right the first time. So the specifics would be of UTMOST importance here...

You have overlooked the specific criticism of Jesus. Jesus said their problem was “I never knew you”. The reason for salvation is reconciliation to God. Those spoken about in the verse had focussed on practising the Christian religion, rather than fellowship with God. They thought they could earn their place in heaven by working for God. In doing so, they chose Law over grace – and were condemned by the Law as Lawless.

The Biblical Martha made the same mistake. She thought Jesus would be impressed with her doing her duty – and complained when others chose to seek His presence and fellowship.

Luke 10 :38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

What is legitimately “terrifying”, is the thought that so many could be so close to grace, but get “distracted” from grace “with much serving”; finding themselves “worried and troubled about many things” rather than enjoying God's goodness which He purchased for us at such a high price.

 

I mentioned that canons differ because they indeed do, showing that there isn't just "one canon" we can trust. I don't see a problem with this, and neither did the early church who didn't even have the concept of of official NY canons. ... Again, if canons can be fallible at all, then one person's writings appearing in any or all of them is not valid evidence of it being truth. That is the only point of the mention of canons, and it still stands.

The word canon simply means measures or standards. When determining scripture, we apply a set of standards by which a text is either included or excluded. As far as I can ascertain, Paul's writings measure up to all the objective standards used to include other text in New Testament scripture – and some more besides. So I find it difficult to understand how you could objectively argue against Paul's inclusion.

In your most recent post, you seem to be considering Paul's inclusion based on the standard of adherence to the Law – which demonstrates that you have predetermined the issue prior to consideration. What if God's truth is, as I argue, that the New Covenant of grace is superior to, and therefore replaces, the Old Covenant of Law? Having predetermined the issue, you have simply afforded yourself the right to reject any such claim as scripture. So pre-selecting a chosen doctrine to serve as a standard lacks objectivity. When we apply subjective standards in this manner, we make ourselves arbiters over God's word – I.e we permit ourselves the right to reject as scripture anything we find doctrinally uncomfortable.

 

My goal was to understand how Paul and the twelve could be harmonized, and as I stated a few posts ago, the current evidence I have DOES allow me to see some level of harmonization between Paul and the twelve IF we can say that Paul was Torah observant and taught Torah observance...and, the more I read, the more I see evidence of such

Paul did not teach “Torah observance”. Paul respected the traditions of those he was preaching to so that their hearts would be open to hearing the Gospel of Christ.

1 Corinthians 9 :19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;

1 Corinthians 10 :31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved

 

this is where I struggle. Gentiles in synagogues on sabbaths and kept Jewish holy days and other Jewish customs

I'm not sure where this idea comes from. Jews were dispersed throughout the Roman empire. Jewish communities in gentile cities built themselves synagogues where they could meet and worship together – much as they do today. When Paul first entered a gentile city, he would initially seek out the Jews in the synagogue so he could reveal Jesus to them from their own scriptures. That way the Christian church in that region had Jewish leaders – i.e. those with an existing background education in scripture.

There may have been some gentile converts to Judaism, but I'm not sure where you get the impression this was common. Paul was seeking Jews in the synagogues, not gentiles. Unless you mean something else.

 

My skepticism that abandoning Jewish practices is somehow correct still stands

I am not claiming that Christians are obligated to abandonJewish practices”. If you wish to rest and honour God on Saturdays, you are free to do so. If you choose to give one tenth of your income to the synagogue you are also free. Likewise, you are free to abstain from bacon, or participate in Jewish feasts, or have your male children circumcised etc. However, Christians are not obligated to do any of these things. It is unsurprising that many early Jewish Christians chose to maintain their traditions. Nevertheless, the Word of God is our authority, not the behaviours of early Christians.

Jesus raised the standard of righteousness from a system of outward obedience to a system of sincere, worshipful devotion. That devotion is a faith/love response to the knowledge that our salvation is entirely the work of Christ; nothing we did (nor could ever do) contributed to our standing with God – and so Christ deservingly gets all of the glory.

But if we think outward obedience gives us standing with God, we reject the system of grace (i.e. unmerited favour) instituted through His sacrifice. The issue is not about whether you eat, or don't eat, bacon, but about whether you think that decision gives you any standing with God. Our standing with God is based entirely in our being in Christ – nothing to do with our own efforts. If you think otherwise, you have abandoned grace for Law (and are condemned under Law as a transgressor).

 

If he [Jesus] was obligated [to teach the Law], by whom was he obligated

To qualify as the Redeemer of those under Law, Jesus had to fulfil the Law – i.e. Jesus had to live in perfect accordance with the Law until His death to demonstrate that the Law was an attainable standard for a perfectly righteous person. He was therefore obligated by His own mission to the Jews.

 

“[Jesus said “come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (verse 21).]

Which, by the way, is incredibly vague. Following Yeshua means doing the things he taught

Actually, in the specific context, it meant that the young man being addressed should sell his property and becoming a disciple of Jesus.

 

[The Law does not tell us "HOW" to love God]

Then what are these?

"3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:1)

This is a list of rules for the Jews to obey as their part in the covenant with God. No sincere love or devotion is required – just follow the instructions.

 

The obedience stems from the belief; else that "faith" has no works and is dead. Obedience and belief are NOT mutually exclusive; indeed one comes from the other It's a change in motive: we must be obedient BECAUSE we are saved, not because obedience COULD save us

Absolutely. A sincere faith will manifest itself in good works. But the works do not contribute to our standing with God – but are an outworking of that faith. As Paul states;

Ephesians 2 :8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

 

I see nowhere that obedience is no longer requested

Your are equivocating “obedience” and “works” with subjection to Mosaic Law.

 

I can accept that the truth is there. But where?

If you are Christ's, you have scripture and the Holy Spirit to guide you into truth.

 

remember, we've introduced the concept that the harmonization of Paul with the twelve might have to include a higher level of Torah observance

That is an idea you have introduced, I don't think any objective reading of Paul's epistles could generate a sincere conclusion that Paul taught “Torah observance”.

But as I mentioned earlier in this post, if we make our preferred doctrine the standard, we subject scripture to the authority human philosophy (whereas we should be subjecting doctrine to the authority of scripture).

 

Christmas and Easter are pagan, as are wedding rings and even the requirement of government or church weddings in order for a couple to be truly "married"--and yet, these things are also generally accepted by churches

None of these examples are “pagan”.

Christians celebrated the birth of Christ on December 25th before the Roman pagan festival of Sol Invictus was instituted.

Easter stems from the German festival of the East – celebrating the resurrection of Christ with the rising of the sun on the Sunday (i.e. around the time of Passover, when the Bible says Jesus was raised).

The history of wedding rings is vague – but as far as I can ascertain, they have always represented covenant marital devotion, not pagan worship. But I agree that they are not a requirement of scripture.

 

“ [So Paul passes the test.]

How? Because Paul says that he himself is legit, he's legit? How is that not circular reasoning?

You skipped the argument. You suggested you were testing “the prophets”. I provided the context (1 Jn 4:1-3) revealing the standards against which we are instructed to “test the spirits” - i.e. “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God”. In Romans 1:3, Paul explicitly confesses that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. So Paul passes the test.

 

I'll take the words of an eye witness (apostles) over a secondary witness who never met Yeshua any day, and that's a logical thing to do.

But not Luke or Peter – who explicitly endorse Paul's legitimacy in scripture.

 

Again I ask which Torah laws prohibit? I'm still not aware of any, other than the traditions of men. I see no evidence of Peter breaking Torah to visit Gentiles, or of God commanding him to break Torah. Do you have such evidence?

This is a red herring. My claim was that God revealed our freedom from Law to Peter by showing him that salvation was also offered to those who are not under the Law.

 

Where was a distinction made, that "moral" laws should continue to apply and that others don't?

None of the Law applies to Christians. There is no such distinction. Christians relate to God under a completely New Covenant. But what doesn't change, regardless of the covenant, is morality. Sin and righteousness existed before the Law, and sin and righteousness exist today. The Law specified some of these moral rules in the covenant between God and Israel. Even though that list of rules has no authority over Christians, the moral tenets described by the Law remain as true as at the first day of creation.

 

what distinguishes whether a law is "moral" or "other"? I see no such distinctions. Can you point to any?

The distinctions are self-evident. Administrative laws told the Jews how to run their nation. They include, for example, the appropriate judicial actions for certain actions. Ritual laws include repeated patterns, largely for symbolic reasons (e.g. dietary and food preparation laws, holy days, circumcision, the various kinds of sacrifices etc.) For example, animal sacrifices pointed to the need for the Saviour to die – i.e. the need to spill the blood of a perfect sacrifice to atone for sin.

Moral laws have implications for right and wrong. For example, worshipping anyone or anything other than God is an affront to the rightful place of our true Creator. It represents an act of treasonous rebellion/betrayal against the highest Authority in all of reality. That was true before the Law, was subsequently stated in the Law, and remains true today – regardless of its intermediate appearance in the Law.

 

What does a guardian do for a child? Things like teach them to take baths, study or work hard, be nice to his sister, etc. As an adult, will the grown child STOP doing these specifics? No--he just does them without having to be told anymore. How then can the above be interpreted as saying that the things taught in the law no longer apply?

When you are a child, you do what you are told because you are under the authority of your guardians. But when you grow up, you are no longer under that authority. You now “take baths” (or worship only God, or refrain from murdering etc.) because you have matured into greater understanding, not because your guardians demand it. Your guardian (i.e. the Law) no longer has any authority over you.

 

Please demonstrate which Torah rules did and did not ever apply to Gentiles. I am aware of the concept that some may not have applied, but unfamiliar with any that Gentiles are told not to follow..

None of the “Torah rules” ever applied to the gentiles. Those “rules” were never given to the gentiles. That is, the gentiles were never told to follow, or not to follow, any rules. The rules were given to Moses by God for the nation of Israel. It was a covenant between them. In return for adherence to Law, God would be the God of Israel and Israel would be His own special people; under His divine favour and protection – and explicitly distinct from the gentiles; i.e. those who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).

 

If people know God's commandments and break them, it's not really following his orders, is it? How can one claim to follow God and then intentionally break his rules? That's the only point here. Your claim that I'm "setting aside grace" is unfounded and just false.”

Grace-based favour is the logical opposite of works-based favour. They are logically contrary systems. Grace is, by definition, unmerited – i.e. favour which is utterly independent of what we can earn (or loose) by our own effort. If works are still required to garnish God's favour, then Christ's sacrifice was insufficient to purchase our salvation.

Again, whether or not you decide to eat bacon (etc.) is utterly your choice – but if you think that makes you a better Christian than a bacon-eating Christian, you are operating under Law, not grace. Everything in us that pleases God was brought for us by the blood of Christ. We can't add to or take away from that gift (though we can reject it). Only He deserves glory. As you previously stated, our attempts to please Him by actions are as filthy rags. We please Him by faith in the finished work of the cross – and our subsequent good works will reflect that faith, but not add to our standing before God.

 

" “Demonstrate how you believe the above [Rom 14:6] is regarding God's laws and not the Pharisee traditions that Yeshua AND the apostles preached against” (me)

"Can you demonstrate that it means one and not the other?" (you)

I don't need to. I'm not the one making a claim that God changed any Torah laws. You are claiming God stopped requiring Torah adherence. This would have been an opportunity to prove that those verses supported your position, but you are also welcome to not support your position.

I am happy to let Romans 14:6 speak for itself. For me, there is no reason to assume it means anything other than what it says. You are the one suggesting it might mean something beyond what it says. So you are the one obligated to provide support for “your position, but you are also welcome to not support your position”.

 

Were we not "grafted onto Israel" and made a part of it?

We were not. Jesus is the vine onto which we were grafted (Jn 15:1-5). We were grafted into the promise of salvation – which followed the ancestral line from Adam to Jesus.

 

Even over the last few weekends, I've experienced differences in beliefs in various churches.

Were they differences over morality, or other doctrines? Were they condoning sex outside of Godly marriage, or murder, or theft, or pagan worship etc.

Sanctification is a process – we don't all have absolute knowledge at the point of salvation. So there is room for disagreements over non-essential doctrines. But morality is fairly explicit in the Bible.

 

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It is sad that some seem to think that Yeshua was somehow different to Yahweh. Yeshua gave the Torah to Moses. Yeshua gave the Abramic covenant to all of us. It is only the elitist and separatist amongst believers that want to chop it all up for their doctrine's convenience.

Yeshua gave the law. Yeshua met Saul on the Damascus road. There's an amazing cohesiveness to the scriptures, canon and non-canon which the apostles all studied. There are so many common threads throughout that if you are not a scholar of the 3/4 of biblical narrative contained in the total bible (the OT), you will understand so very little. Yahweh has His Plan. The scriptures He gave us (all of them) are for our benefit not His. He actually knows what He is doing! One must study diligently and read between the lines to get a hint at what Yahweh's end-game is. Yeshua did not come to just save fallen humanity and Saul knew this very well indeed. Yeshua, as Yahweh, came to put to rights the whole of creation and its downfall 'from transgressions'. (plural)

Edited by Justin Adams

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On 1/16/2018 at 7:37 PM, stillseeking said:

This does demonstrate that he eventually had a few moments of agreement with the apostles. 

So you admit the Apostles had some exchange with Paul. If Paul was in error, why didn't Peter, James, John or Jude ever correct Paul's view on justification in their Epistles? Even the ECF whom you made reference to in your OP quoted Paul and exegeted his writings.

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You assume that when John uses the word “commandments”, he means the Law of Moses.

I'm not *totally* convinced that commandments = the law of Moses, but it does so far seem to be the most likely explanation.  John does indeed list the commandments of loving God and one another, but I still fail to see how we can ignore the many times that other commandments are given, suggesting that "love God/love people" isn't a complete list.  

For example:

Matthew 23:2 "2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,[a] that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do." (Here, Jesus is directly telling the crowds and his disciples to do the things read from the Moses seat, which would have been the Torah.)

Matthew 19:16 "16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”" (Here Jesus lists a few more OT commandments right alongside "love your neighbor")

Do you see the confusion here?  There are places in the Bible where he clearly instructs the disciples and the crowds to obey far more than "love your neighbor".  

===

(Regarding Matthew 7:21-23)

"You have overlooked the specific criticism of Jesus. Jesus said their problem was “I never knew you”."

That doesn't seem right...in verse 21, it tells us that only those who *do* the will of the Father will enter the kingdom:

"21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

Right after that is where Jesus affirms that even many people who seem to be real believers, as evidenced by their ability to do powerful works through him, will get rejected!  

I'm terrified by the notion that Jesus would reject people who call upon his name and sincerely seek him, and even are able to do amazing works of faith and think they're following him correctly...but who maybe get it wrong by accident...to the point that I actually have another thread open trying to figure out who these people are, that Jesus rejects, even after they called upon his name.  

If people who believe in Jesus and can even do miracles in his name can't get saved, then wow...I guess the rest of us are screwed?  Seriously though, there's really no comfortable explanation for this, thus my thread on that topic.  

===

"In your most recent post, you seem to be considering Paul's inclusion based on the standard of adherence to the Law – which demonstrates that you have predetermined the issue prior to consideration."

Faulty conclusion, and no, there's nothing predetermined about my doubts.  I came into this thread because I genuinely do not understand how it is that Paul fits in, especially given the many varying viewpoints on this matter, many of which raise valid points.  

So far, this explanation which you quoted makes the most sense to me so far.  I'm not totally convinced, though, which is why I continue to explore.  I don't yet have a conclusion.  I only have the notion so far that certain explanations make a little more sense than others.   

===

“this is where I struggle. Gentiles in synagogues on sabbaths and kept Jewish holy days and other Jewish customs” (me)

"I'm not sure where this idea comes from." (you)

Acts 18:4 "4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks."  Why were there Greeks there, too?  

Acts 13:14 "14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”

16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!" (Paul addressed the Jews and Gentiles as two distinct groups)

Acts 2:5 "5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”" (Why were there Gentiles there in Jerusalem at Pentecost if they weren't following Jewish traditions?)

===

"Jesus raised the standard of righteousness from a system of outward obedience to a system of sincere, worshipful devotion. That devotion is a faith/love response to the knowledge that our salvation is entirely the work of Christ; nothing we did (nor could ever do) contributed to our standing with God – and so Christ deservingly gets all of the glory."

On this point I do agree.  

Furthermore, Torah observant Christians will further explain that the law is kept BECAUSE they are saved, not SO THAT they are saved.  Tzitzit, kosher eating, and everything else is seen as obedience to God out of love...for the same reasons that we keep other commandments, such as not murdering and not committing adultery.  And my suggestion above that Paul was possibly Torah observant and taught such is in line with this way of thinking, as this notion doesn't clash with Jesus' very Jewish way of teaching and living.  

===

"This is a list of rules for the Jews to obey as their part in the covenant with God. No sincere love or devotion is required – just follow the instructions."

God DID ask for their sincere devotion, though.  The commandment to love god with all your heart which Jesus gave wasn't new...it's right there in Deuteronomy 6:5.  

===

"If you are Christ's, you have scripture and the Holy Spirit to guide you into truth."

There are an awful lot of people who think this way and yet come to drastically different conclusions.  I again wonder how it is we can verify that we have arrived upon God's intended interpretation.  

===

"None of these examples are “pagan”.
Christians celebrated the birth of Christ on December 25th before the Roman pagan festival of Sol Invictus was instituted.
Easter stems from the German festival of the East – celebrating the resurrection of Christ with the rising of the sun on the Sunday (i.e. around the time of Passover, when the Bible says Jesus was raised).
The history of wedding rings is vague – but as far as I can ascertain, they have always represented covenant marital devotion, not pagan worship. But I agree that they are not a requirement of scripture."

Ummm...ok.  Most Christians don't deny the pagan origins of these things and instead insist that such origins are irrelevant due to the new meanings assigned to them after Christians adapted these holidays.  

While scholars debate the origin of Christmas, most believe that it has to do with winter solstice celebrations, which definitely predate Jesus.  This, at least, is the opinion of National Geographic.  Pagan celebrations around this time predating Jesus are well-accepted.  

Same story with Easter.  Scholars tend to agree that it was originally a pagan festival, but they disagree about exactly which one.  One thing we do know is that even as early as the first apostolic successors, the Easter vs. Passover question was causing problems:

Polycarp was being pressured to celebrate Easter instead of Passover, and he flat out refused, insisting that he would continue to observe Passover the way that John did and according to the calendar date that John had used.  Naturally, I question your statement on the origin of Easter as a German tradition; seeing as this argument happened prior to 100 AD.    

Wedding rings date back to at least the ancient Egyptians.  No, they're not pagan "worship" as you mentioned, but they were pagan nonetheless.  

So...where did you get this information of the supposed origins of these holidays?  Many things you have said up to this point have been credible, but these statements aren't.  

===

"You skipped the argument. You suggested you were testing “the prophets”. I provided the context (1 Jn 4:1-3) revealing the standards against which we are instructed to “test the spirits” - i.e. “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God”. In Romans 1:3, Paul explicitly confesses that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. So Paul passes the test."

This is still circular reasoning.  Paul is still the one proclaiming that Paul passes the test.  

One reason so many Jews did NOT accept Paul is that he didn't pass the Deuteronomy 13 test.  No one had John's writings to refer to until many decades after Jesus' death.  

===

"But not Luke or Peter – who explicitly endorse Paul's legitimacy in scripture."

Luke was Paul's companian, so this isn't surprising (that he agrees with Paul).  It was mentioned that 2 Peter endorses Paul, but when I responded that this was and is indeed one of the most disputed authorships in the NT, no one has provided any additional information regarding why it should be considered to be Peter's writings genuinely, and thus my doubt surrounding this remains.  

===

"This is a red herring. My claim was that God revealed our freedom from Law to Peter by showing him that salvation was also offered to those who are not under the Law."

No it's not.  I'm asking what Torah laws might have prohibited Peter from visiting the Gentiles, since you said:

"Peter was initially resistant to the message of freedom from Law - God had to reveal this to him in a vision"

We know that Peter's own interpretation of the vision was that he could visit Gentiles, yet you suggested that it had something to do with freedom from the law.  So, naturally, I'm asking exactly which laws you think he was freed from, since the only change enacted here was that he went from NOT visiting Gentiles to doing so.  

===

"Christians relate to God under a completely New Covenant. But what doesn't change, regardless of the covenant, is morality."

This seems to be the crux of your position and what I'd appreciate if you could elucidate.  Yes, a new covenant is foretold, with Israel.  Where exactly do we see this distinction between what was and wasn't changed?  There is much disagreement even on WHICH rules changed.  I just don't see any clarity on this matter.  

You mention that the distinctions between moral and "other" laws are self-evident--but I maintain the question of where GOD makes such distinctions, or where he cancels some and not others?  

===

"None of the “Torah rules” ever applied to the gentiles."

They sure seemed to be, according to the old testament.  For example, there were Egyptians who fled Pharoah along with the Israelites.  They were welcome to come along as long as they also followed the rules.  

Plus, God's covenants were/are with Israel.  We're "grafted into Israel" so that we can partake in that new covenant (whatever its rules may or may not be).

===

"We please Him by faith in the finished work of the cross – and our subsequent good works will reflect that faith, but not add to our standing before God."

I do accept that Jesus has already paid the price for our salvation.  The main thing which I am NOT sure of is which works are those which those who love God will do; which works are those without which faith is dead?  Jesus' commandments include a lot more than "love God/love people", and without a strong case to disregard them, it seems like doing so might risk living a lifestyle that isn't pleasing to God.  I don't think any of us wants to risk intentionally living in sin, so it's utterly important that we define it.  Defining the way God wants us to live is indeed one of the things I hope to determine from this discussion and others I'm having.  

Matthew 7:21 "21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

===

"I am happy to let Romans 14:6 speak for itself. For me, there is no reason to assume it means anything other than what it says. You are the one suggesting it might mean something beyond what it says. So you are the one obligated to provide support for “your position, but you are also welcome to not support your position”."

Except it doesn't work that way.  You originally brought that verse out hoping to support your position, citing it directly following these words:

"We can abstain from bacon if we choose, but there is no value in that decision before God with regards to righteousness (either for or against)."

Thus, you're the one making a claim, and the burden of proof lies on the person making the claim.  I'm merely a skeptic; my position is merely that I currently do NOT have a satisfactory explanation for how the teachings of Paul fit in with the very Jewish repentance/kingdom teachings Jesus made during his lifetime.  I don't claim that it does or doesn't mean what you say--and I cast doubt on people's explanations hoping to see which position is best supported.  And because the "eat anything" position doesn't seem very well-supported, my doubts remain.  

===

“Were we not "grafted onto Israel" and made a part of it?” (me)

"We were not. Jesus is the vine onto which we were grafted (Jn 15:1-5). We were grafted into the promise of salvation – which followed the ancestral line from Adam to Jesus." (you)

What is the meaning of the following, then:

Romans 11:17 "17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree..."

Here, our buddy Paul is talking about how Gentiles are made a part of the tree which symbolizes Israel and its inheritance.  Corroborating that, we remember that the new covenant was FOR Israel in the first place:

Jeremiah 31:31 "“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.  32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]” declares the Lord.  33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.  “I will put my law in their minds   and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people."

(By the way, the above verse is one that supports your hypothesis of the differences in Paul's teachings being of the new covenant.  We would still have to explain, though, why it is that it's so different than the message Jesus gave during his life on Earth.  We could explore this; it would be helpful.)

===

"Were they differences over morality, or other doctrines? Were they condoning sex outside of Godly marriage, or murder, or theft, or pagan worship etc."

Both.  I've made a point of visiting a number of varying denominations and seeing how people explain their beliefs.  Here are just a few issues on which the varying churches I have seen differ:  

- Modest dress standards
- Make-up
- Saturday versus Sunday worship
- Acceptance or rejection of practicing gays
- Jewelry
- Torah observance
- Marriage to non-Christians, or even those of another denomination
(and more)

Churches are kind of all over the map.  It's been an interesting experience, but I'm not sure it's brought me closer to any conclusions, other than that I am fairly certain I do not like churches.

===

"What if God's truth is, as I argue, that the New Covenant of grace is superior to, and therefore replaces, the Old Covenant of Law?"

We need support for that position, then.  I've actually been looking into this possibility as well, since I wanted to better understand how these widespread ideas came to be without any explicit point in biblical history where the apostles or Paul flat out abandoned their Torah observance.  On that note, it seems that whether or not Christians ought to be Torah observant mostly belongs on its own thread.  I would have arguments for and against this at present, if I were to participate in such a thread.  

In support of your theory, though, I would offer the following points so far:  
* Jesus makes a point of declaring that his own blood sealed the new covenant.  This mirrors the way the Mt. Sinai covenant was sealed--also with blood.
* We do in fact have several OT verses which prophesy the establishment of a new covenant.  
* The Talmud records that since about AD 30, (approximately the time of Jesus' death,) the crimson rope which used to turn white as a sign of the forgiveness of sin following Yom Kippur observances in the traditional Jewish manner.  (This is one my my favorites, as it's a widely verified, non-Christian source pointing to the legitimacy of Jesus' work on the cross in general.  I'm surprised no one mentioned it so far, actually.)

But the doubts remain: I've spelled many of them out, but in summary, here are the specific status updates on my original questions:  

* At what point are Paul's gospel and the twelve apostles' version harmonized?
    * Possibility: Since we know that the apostles were Jews, Jesus was a Jew, and Jesus told people to follow Jewish commandments, Paul's letters, which are confusing the the apostles' admission, can indeed be interpreted as opposition to the traditions of MAN rather than opposition to any of the laws God gave to Moses.  We're left with the question of why he seemed to tell the Gentiles not to be under the law, or if indeed he did.  
    * Possibility: We see in the OT that a new covenant was foretold.  If we can establish that the new covenant is characterized by a new set of commandments replacing (and not in addition to) the old ones, then Paul's (again confusing) letters can also be interpreted as supporting adherence to such a set of new rules.  We're let with the question of whether the old laws were truly abolished, though, since the apostles seemed to keep them, many early church fathers are recorded as keeping the sabbath and the biblical feasts, and why Paul so adamantly wanted to prove to the Jews in the book of Acts that he indeed DID keep the law.  
* Why does Jesus never mention during his time on Earth any of the things Paul is teaching?
    * I still don't know.  But I can recognize that the notion that a few things were changing was definitely alluded to on multiple occasions.  It's a bit cryptic, though, which doesn't satisfy my black-and-white mind.  
* Since Paul's version is so different from the apostles' version, how can we be sure he's not a false prophet?  (Many people at the time thought he was)
    * The explanations to this are seen under the first point.  
* If Paul's truth is the one we're supposed to go by, then why wouldn't Jesus have made any mention of those concepts during his earthly ministry?  Why would he choose twelve guys who would ultimately "get it wrong"?
    * This I am still confused by...especially since those twelve guys seemingly kept on living by the Jewish laws long after the resurrection.  I'd love to see some material that demonstrates otherwise.  
* What early Christian records do we have which suggest that the churches founded by the apostles and NOT touched by Paul were taught Paul's version of the gospel...and were taught so by the apostles and not Paul?  (This perhaps would be the most convincing to me, seeing as all biblical attempts to harmonize Paul and the apostles are written by Paul's camp.)
    * While searching, I found out that people like Polycarp DID keep sabbath on the 7th day, as well as the biblical feasts, which is odd if those things "passed away".  

I observe that you bring up a myriad of verses which seem to say that sabbaths and dietary laws requirements and such are done away with, but I fail to see how this explanation fits: I fail to see how these verses harmonize with the words of Jesus who told us to listen to and DO the law of Moses (Matthew 23) and who told a man seeking eternal life to follow the ten commandments literally (Mark 10:18).  This is part of the information I have been seeking, if it exists, from the start, and this is the information I still lack, if we are to support Paul's differences as a "new covenant" position. 

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On 2/14/2018 at 2:31 AM, stillseeking said:

I'm not *totally* convinced that commandments = the law of Moses, but ...  

In support of your theory, though, I would offer the following points so far:  
* Jesus makes a point of declaring that his own blood sealed the new covenant.  This mirrors the way the Mt. Sinai covenant was sealed--also with blood.
* We do in fact have several OT verses which prophesy the establishment of a new covenant.  
* The Talmud records that since about AD 30, (approximately the time of Jesus' death,) the crimson rope which used to turn white as a sign of the forgiveness of sin following Yom Kippur observances in the traditional Jewish manner.  (This is one my my favorites, as it's a widely verified, non-Christian source pointing to the legitimacy of Jesus' work on the cross in general.  I'm surprised no one mentioned it so far, actually.)

But the doubts remain: I've spelled many of them out, but in summary, here are the specific status updates on my original questions:  

* At what point are Paul's gospel and the twelve apostles' version harmonized?
    * Possibility: Since we know that the apostles were Jews, Jesus was a Jew, and Jesus told people to follow Jewish commandments, Paul's letters, which are confusing the the apostles' admission, can indeed be interpreted as opposition to the traditions of MAN rather than opposition to any of the laws God gave to Moses.  We're left with the question of why he seemed to tell the Gentiles not to be under the law, or if indeed he did.  
    * Possibility: We see in the OT that a new covenant was foretold.  If we can establish that the new covenant is characterized by a new set of commandments replacing (and not in addition to) the old ones, then Paul's (again confusing) letters can also be interpreted as supporting adherence to such a set of new rules.  We're let with the question of whether the old laws were truly abolished, though, since the apostles seemed to keep them, many early church fathers are recorded as keeping the sabbath and the biblical feasts, and why Paul so adamantly wanted to prove to the Jews in the book of Acts that he indeed DID keep the law.  
* Why does Jesus never mention during his time on Earth any of the things Paul is teaching?
    * I still don't know.  But I can recognize that the notion that a few things were changing was definitely alluded to on multiple occasions.  It's a bit cryptic, though, which doesn't satisfy my black-and-white mind.  
* Since Paul's version is so different from the apostles' version, how can we be sure he's not a false prophet?  (Many people at the time thought he was)
    * The explanations to this are seen under the first point.  
* If Paul's truth is the one we're supposed to go by, then why wouldn't Jesus have made any mention of those concepts during his earthly ministry?  Why would he choose twelve guys who would ultimately "get it wrong"?
    * This I am still confused by...especially since those twelve guys seemingly kept on living by the Jewish laws long after the resurrection.  I'd love to see some material that demonstrates otherwise.  
* What early Christian records do we have which suggest that the churches founded by the apostles and NOT touched by Paul were taught Paul's version of the gospel...and were taught so by the apostles and not Paul?  (This perhaps would be the most convincing to me, seeing as all biblical attempts to harmonize Paul and the apostles are written by Paul's camp.)
    * While searching, I found out that people like Polycarp DID keep sabbath on the 7th day, as well as the biblical feasts, which is odd if those things "passed away".  

I observe that you bring up a myriad of verses which seem to say that sabbaths and dietary laws requirements and such are done away with, but I fail to see how this explanation fits: I fail to see how these verses harmonize with the words of Jesus who told us to listen to and DO the law of Moses (Matthew 23) and who told a man seeking eternal life to follow the ten commandments literally (Mark 10:18).  This is part of the information I have been seeking, if it exists, from the start, and this is the information I still lack, if we are to support Paul's differences as a "new covenant" position. 

John does indeed list the commandments of loving God and one another, but I still fail to see how we can ignore the many times that other commandments are given, suggesting that "love God/love people" isn't a complete list.

For example: Matthew 23:2 "2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,[a] that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do." (Here, Jesus is directly telling the crowds and his disciples to do the things read from the Moses seat, which would have been the Torah.)

Matthew 19:16 "16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”18 “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[a] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”" (Here Jesus lists a few more OT commandments right alongside "love your neighbor")

Do you see the confusion here? There are places in the Bible where he clearly instructs the disciples and the crowds to obey far more than "love your neighbor".

The New Covenant was instituted at the time of Jesus death – consecrated through His blood. Until that time, the Law was the prevailing covenant between God and Israel. If Jesus had taught Jews to depart from that covenant, He Himself would have been in breach of the Law, and therefore disqualified as the Redeemer of Israel. To qualify as their Saviour, Jesus had to be born a Jew, and live a life in perfect subjection to the Law.

As previously discussed, Jesus’ mission obligated Him to direct Jews towards the Law. Even so, the point of Matt 23 is not about obedience to Law, but respect for the God-ordained office of authority – despite the people in authority being themselves disingenuous hypocrites.

Paul teaches us that the ultimate goal of the Law is to direct us to the grace of Christ – which is exactly how Jesus used the Law to convict the young man in Matt 19.

 

(Regarding Matthew 7:21-23) "You have overlooked the specific criticism of Jesus. Jesus said their problem was “I never knew you”." That doesn't seem right...in verse 21, it tells us that only those who *do* the will of the Father will enter the kingdom: "21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Right after that is where Jesus affirms that even many people who seem to be real believers, as evidenced by their ability to do powerful works through him, will get rejected!

I read this passage as making a distinction between those who focused on works (and thought there works earned them the right to heaven) rather than focusing on fellowship with Jesus. The “will of the Father” is that we be reconciled to Him, know Him, trust Him, love Him, and walk with Him – as it was with Adam at the Creation.

 

I'm terrified by the notion that Jesus would reject people who call upon his name and sincerely seek him, and even are able to do amazing works of faith and think they're following him correctly...but who maybe get it wrong by accident...to the point that I actually have another thread open trying to figure out who these people are, that Jesus rejects, even after they called upon his name. If people who believe in Jesus and can even do miracles in his name can't get saved, then wow...I guess the rest of us are screwed? Seriously though, there's really no comfortable explanation for this, thus my thread on that topic.

That is why outward manifestations cannot be the standard of righteousness or salvation. If we had to be good enough, we’d all be “screwed”. Jesus warned against using supernatural signs as a measure of righteousness – calling those who seek signs “wicked” (Matt 16:4). Paul tells the Thessalonian Church that Satan will use “signs and lying wonders” to deceive (2 Thes 2:9-10). So we can’t assume that supernatural manifestations are necessarily a reflection of God’s will – only His word can be trusted as our authority. There are no special categories of Christian – i.e. none more righteous than others. All Christians are purified by the Blood of Christ – and that alone. God does not discriminate or show partiality. If a person is saved by grace, then that is the standard for everyone.

The passage tells us who the people were – they were those who thought there part was to focus on working for God, rather than sitting at His feet and getting to know Him. The more we know Him, the more natural it becomes to be outwardly righteous. Good behaviour is a result of fellowship with Him, not a requirement (as it was under Law).

 

this is where I struggle. Gentiles in synagogues on sabbaths and kept Jewish holy days and other Jewish customs

Acts 18:4 "4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks." Why were there Greeks there, too?

These were not Christian gentiles seeking to learn the Law. The structure of Greek gramma is a bit vague here (such that the “Greeks” mentioned here were not necessarily in “the synagogue”). But what is clear is that Paul was trying to convert them to Christianity. So if they were Greeks in the synagogue, they were Judaistic proselytes, not Christians seeking the Law.

 

Acts 13:14 "14 From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.” ... 16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!" (Paul addressed the Jews and Gentiles as two distinct groups)

As above, these were gentile converts to Judaism, not Christians trying to learn the Law. This is stated several times in the rest of chapter 13 – which also details Paul's attempt to preach Christ to them. This chapter also demonstrates the broader pattern of preaching to Jews first, then taking the message to the gentiles when rejected by the Jewish authorities. So Paul's strategy was to take the gospel message first to Jews (including proselyte Jews) - i.e. those who were already familiar with the scriptures.

 

Acts 2:5 "5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”" (Why were there Gentiles there in Jerusalem at Pentecost if they weren't following Jewish traditions?)

So again, these were not Christians seeking Law. They are explicitly “converts to Judaism” - i.e. before their conversion to Christianity. Gentile converts to Judaism doesn't support the notion that Christians were seeking Law.

 

Torah observant Christians will further explain that the law is kept BECAUSE they are saved, not SO THAT they are saved.

The Law requires absolute obedience – or else condemns us as transgressors. If we choose to subject ourselves to that authority, there is no provision to pick and choose which rules we obey. How many “Torah observant Christians” perform the animal sacrifices required by the Law? Most Christians understand that animal sacrifices were rituals which are ultimately fulfilled in the sacrifice of Christ. That is, the ritual laws of animal sacrifice point to the requirement of a pure blood sacrifice to atone for sin. But animal sacrifices are still required under Law. So either we need to continue to atone for our sins by repeatedly offering  animal sacrifices to God, or Christ's sacrifice is sufficient to permanently atone for our sin.

 

Tzitzit, kosher eating, and everything else is seen as obedience to God out of love...for the same reasons that we keep other commandments, such as not murdering and not committing adultery

Under grace, you can wear or eat whatever you choose. It's only when we start thinking that makes us better Christians than those who choose otherwise, that we defer from grace to Law. Murder and adultery have always been wrong – regardless of it being written down in the covenant between God and Israel (2500 years-or-so after Cain murdered Able) – and will continue to be wrong; regardless of the Law.

 

my suggestion above that Paul was possibly Torah observant and taught such is in line with this way of thinking, as this notion doesn't clash with Jesus' very Jewish way of teaching and living.

I think if you read Paul's letters (esp Galatians – only 6 chapters), you'll be under no illusion that Paul taught subjection to Law. Nevertheless, Paul does claim to be “Torah observant” when it suited his mission - i.e. opening doors to preach the gospel to Jews.

 

There are an awful lot of people who think this way and yet come to drastically different conclusions. I again wonder how it is we can verify that we have arrived upon God's intended interpretation.

Only God can ever claim to have absolute knowledge. The rest of us have to settle for knowing that part God reveals to us. We all have His Word, and sincere Christians have the Holy Spirit to guide us into whatever He deems we need to know.

Our part is to be as sincere and honest with ourselves as possible; endeavouring to mitigate the influence of any personal motives or agendas. And staying teachable – recognising that we are all flawed, and subject to error. After doing our part, we then trust that God will guide us as He promised; i.e when we are open to receiving His guidance.

 

Ummm...ok. Most Christians don't deny the pagan origins of these things and instead insist that such origins are irrelevant due to the new meanings assigned to them after Christians adapted these holidays.

While scholars debate the origin of Christmas, most believe that it has to do with winter solstice celebrations, which definitely predate Jesus. This, at least, is the opinion of National Geographic. Pagan celebrations around this time predating Jesus are well-accepted.

Long before Jesus, pagans celebrated Saturlina – a one week festival around the solstice (usually December 17-23). Regardless - just because pagans celebrate on this date, doesn't mean they own the date, or that any subsequent celebrations are in any way related to this festival.

The earliest evidence of pagans celebrating on the 25th December (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti - celebrating the birth of the sun god, Sol) is 274 AD (when instituted by Roman Emperor Aurelian). The earliest source of this date is from the Phonecian Calander of 354AD.
However, the earliest record of Christians celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25 is 202 AD (Hippolytus of Rome - "Commentary on Daniel"). And subsequently, Sextus Julius Africanus noted the celebration of Christ's birth in his "Chronicle" of the year 221AD.

There is no objective reason to classify the Christian celebration of Christ's birth as pagan.

 

Same story with Easter. Scholars tend to agree that it was originally a pagan festival, but they disagree about exactly which one. One thing we do know is that even as early as the first apostolic successors, the Easter vs. Passover question was causing problems:”

Most claims of pagan origins of Easter relate to Hislop's claim that the word Easter sounds a bit like the names of some ancient pagan Gods (e.g. Syrian Astarte or Ishtar, or the Saxon Eostre). But the word actually stems from the Germanic Ostern (which German Bibles often use where the English is translated Passover).

The Bible tells us that Jesus was crucified on/before Passover. That is the origin of the Christian celebration – absolutely not pagan. The early church argued over the date this should be celebrated – i.e. between the Passover date and resurrection Sunday, not the distinction between Passover and a pagan Easter.

 

Wedding rings date back to at least the ancient Egyptians. No, they're not pagan "worship" as you mentioned, but they were pagan nonetheless.

Does that mean we can't do anything the pagans did – because that is a ridiculous standard? We obviously should not emulate their ungodly veneration of nature and false gods and related rituals (i.e. their paganism) – but that doesn't automatically make everything else they did ungodly.

 

This is still circular reasoning. Paul is still the one proclaiming that Paul passes the test.

Paul is not “the one proclaiming that Paul passes the test”. I am the one proclaiming Paul passes the test – in accordance with the standard proposed by John.

 

Luke was Paul's companian, so this isn't surprising (that he agrees with Paul). It was mentioned that 2 Peter endorses Paul, but when I responded that this was and is indeed one of the most disputed authorships in the NT, no one has provided any additional information regarding why it should be considered to be Peter's writings genuinely, and thus my doubt surrounding this remains.

Your argument starts from a position of dogma over doctrine; namely Torah observance. You then offer a suggestion that Paul be disqualified as scripture because his teaching is overtly inconsistent with Torah observance for Christians. Since Peter explicitly supports Paul, you then move to question Peter's legitimacy. Since we are dealing with ancient texts (and since no one alive directly observed the penning of the original text) the authorship of all scripture can be (and has been) disputed on some level - depending on the agenda at play. And now you are questioning whether Luke (a gospel author) can be considered trustworthy – purely on the basis of his support for Paul.

I would respectfully suggest that in making doctrine your starting point, you have put the proverbial cart before the horse. You have made doctrine an authority over scripture – when scripture should be the authority over doctrine. The order of logic we should be pursuing is to first determine scripture, then derive doctrine from the foundation of that core authority. That is the order of logic observed by most Christians. We first appeal to the canon (the lofty standards for scripture employed by those much closer to the authorship and events), then consider any text meeting the canon standard as the authoritative over doctrine. Simply casting unsupported aspersions against the legitimacy of canon scripture is therefore unlikely to be seriously considered by most Christians.

Attempting to undermine the legitimacy of accepted scripture on the basis of predetermined doctrine is a logically backwards argument for most Christians.

 

I'm asking what Torah laws might have prohibited Peter from visiting the Gentiles, since you said:"Peter was initially resistant to the message of freedom from Law - God had to reveal this to him in a vision"We know that Peter's own interpretation of the vision was that he could visit Gentiles, yet you suggested that it had something to do with freedom from the law. So, naturally, I'm asking exactly which laws you think he was freed from, since the only change enacted here was that he went from NOT visiting Gentiles to doing so.

God showed Peter freedom from Law in revealing that salvation was also available to those who are not under Law.

 

"Christians relate to God under a completely New Covenant. But what doesn't change, regardless of the covenant, is morality."

This seems to be the crux of your position and what I'd appreciate if you could elucidate. Yes, a new covenant is foretold, with Israel. Where exactly do we see this distinction between what was and wasn't changed? There is much disagreement even on WHICH rules changed. I just don't see any clarity on this matter.”

For a Christian, the Law is obsolete in its entirety (with regards to righteousness – not knowledge). There are exactly no such written rules that apply to, or in any sense obligate, sincere Christians - none.

At the time of creation, the standards of morality already applied. When Adam directly disobeyed God’s instruction, it was a sin against God's Holy authority (and technically, a theft). When Cain murdered Able, it was also a sin against God (i.e. the destruction of someone belonging to God; a holy creation made in God's own image) etc. 2500-or-so years later, God made a covenant with the nation of Israel which included some sins as explicit breaches of the covenant. This covenant also included ritual Laws (e.g. circumcision, animal sacrifices, dietary requirements, holy days etc.). The covenant also included laws which told the rulers how to govern and deal out justice.

The Law is an impossible standard for corrupted humans. In fulfilling the Law on the Jew’s behalf, Jesus released the Jews from the burden of keeping the Law, along with the curse associated with breaking the Law. In fulfilling the Law, Jesus removed any specific obligations placed on the Jews by the covenant of Law. Now, Jews and gentiles can both partake of the benefit of Christ's sacrifice.

Ephesians 2:18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Upon accepting Christ as our Lord, we (Christian Jews and gentiles) receive the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us. The Law (the written list of rules) no longer has any authoritative sway over any Christian.

 

"None of the “Torah rules” ever applied to the gentiles."

They sure seemed to be, according to the old testament.  For example, there were Egyptians who fled Pharoah along with the Israelites.  They were welcome to come along as long as they also followed the rules.

Prior to Christ, a gentile individual could choose to submit themselves to the Law; and thereby place themselves and their family under God’s covenant protection with Israel. But they had to be adopted into the faith. The covenant was not given to gentiles or for gentiles, but individual gentiles could choose to submit to Law – i.e to honour God by choosing to following “the rules”.

Therefore, to account for gentile converts, perhaps it would be more correct to say that the Law never applied beyond Judaism – i.e. Israel and the occasional gentile convert (though that is somewhat redundant – since Judaism is defined by the Law).

 

I do accept that Jesus has already paid the price for our salvation. The main thing which I am NOT sure of is which works are those which those who love God will do; which works are those without which faith is dead? Jesus' commandments include a lot more than "love God/love people", and without a strong case to disregard them, it seems like doing so might risk living a lifestyle that isn't pleasing to God. I don't think any of us wants to risk intentionally living in sin, so it's utterly important that we define it. Defining the way God wants us to live is indeed one of the things I hope to determine from this discussion and others I'm having.

Under the New Covenant, we are no longer provided with a list of rules to guide our path. Instead, we are infused with God’s own spirit and life. We live by the Spirit of God, not the letter of the Law. God’s morality is written in our minds and hearts, explicitly unlike the covenant written on tablets and parchment – the covenant which the Jews broke (Jer 31:31-34).

Are you sincere in your faith’s confession? Are you sincerely seeking the will of God? Then God will guide you into His will by the Holy Spirit.

1 John 2:27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

If you want to know what God wants from you – seek God for yourself. Get to know Him, and the sound of His voice.

John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Sin was dealt with on the cross – and is therefore no longer an issue for a sincere Christian. He purchased our righteousness through His blood. We are in right-standing with God - only because of what He has done. What we do cannot undermine the finished work of the cross. We either enter in by sincere faith, or we reject His offer. If our faith is sincere, then our sanctification is His promise to those He has already perfected.

Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

 

"I am happy to let Romans 14:6 speak for itself. For me, there is no reason to assume it means anything other than what it says. You are the one suggesting it might mean something beyond what it says. So you are the one obligated to provide support for “your position, but you are also welcome to not support your position”."

Except it doesn't work that way. You originally brought that verse out hoping to support your position, citing it directly following these words: "We can abstain from bacon if we choose, but there is no value in that decision before God with regards to righteousness (either for or against)." Thus, you're the one making a claim, and the burden of proof lies on the person making the claim.

My claim is that, under grace, it doesn’t matter what you eat (or whether you dedicate a day to God as more important than other days). Paul’s comments in Romans 14:5-6 directly support my claim – i.e. as written; without any additional interpretation. You are suggesting we should read exceptions into what is actually written – therefore it is your responsibility to provide an argument for the case of exceptions. I supported my position with a direct quote from Paul. You are suggesting that Paul might mean something beyond what is written in those verses.

That is, the quote from Paul is the support for my claim. If you want to claim Paul means something else, then “the burden of proof lies on the person making the claim” (i.e. you).

 

Were we not "grafted onto Israel" and made a part of it?” (me) … What is the meaning of the following, then: Romans 11:17 "17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree…" Here, our buddy Paul is talking about how Gentiles are made a part of the tree which symbolizes Israel and its inheritance. Corroborating that, we remember that the new covenant was FOR Israel in the first place:

You interpret the “tree” to symbolise Israel. I think that is secondarily true. Paul considered the primary promise to be the covenant with Abraham (i.e. established well before the Law).

Galatians 3 :15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

Now it is true that the promise was subsequently carried and preserved through the Law (the covenant between God and Israel), however the vine into which we were grafted is the broader promise – from which Jews (the natural heirs by covenant) could be “broken off” (or disinherited).

 

I've made a point of visiting a number of varying denominations and seeing how people explain their beliefs. Here are just a few issues on which the varying churches I have seen differ:

- Modest dress standards

- Make-up

- Saturday versus Sunday worship

- Acceptance or rejection of practicing gays

- Jewelry

- Torah observance

- Marriage to non-Christians, or even those of another denomination

If a denomination condones homosexual practice, then they are teaching against the clear morality espoused by scripture. I have only encountered this from liberal denominations (i.e. those whose practice is to compromise scripture in an effort to appear relevant to the world). The others are issues of non-essential doctrine – i.e. open to discussion and debate without compromising the integrity of one's faith confession.

 

"What if God's truth is, as I argue, that the New Covenant of grace is superior to, and therefore replaces, the Old Covenant of Law?"

We need support for that position, then. I've actually been looking into this possibility as well, since I wanted to better understand how these widespread ideas came to be without any explicit point in biblical history where the apostles or Paul flat out abandoned their Torah observance.

I don't think “flat out abandoned their Torah observance” is an apt characterisation of my position. As Paul described in Romans 14, a person is free to honour God through regulating what they eat or when they worship, or, alternatively, a person can honour God by walking in the fullness of freedom offered through Christ. It is no surprise that Jewish Christians continued in many of their traditions – even though it was no longer required.

The main advocate of freedom from Law in the New Testament is Paul (along with the author of Hebrews – likely Paul, but not stated). It is very easy to support the superiority of the New Covenant if we are permitted to use these scriptures (see Hebrews 8, for example). What is difficult in our conversation is that you reject Paul on the very basis of this explicit doctrine. So the dismissal is circular. I can't support my position with any scripture that supports my position – because you dismiss such support as non-scripture - explicitly because it supports my position.

Your post goes on to summarise why you are sceptical of Paul. I'm pretty sure I have addressed all these issues in this and previous posts.

 

 

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