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stillseeking

Harmonizing Paul and the Twelve

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I had said: * 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.

To which you replied:

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My main objection to this approach is that Paul nowhere makes this very important distinction. The distinction doesn't come from the text itself, but rather from an attempt to fit Paul into Torah observance

Why would he need to make a distinction?  Jesus went around doing exactly this (opposing the man-made laws and establishing the Torah laws). 

I had said:

The new covenant obviously does have rules...you seem to have rephrased them as "not doing things that offend God", but "don't do any of these individual things that offend God" is exactly the same as saying don't do X, Y, or Z in the Old Testament, since the very REASON not to do X, Y, or Z OT things was because X, Y, and Z offend God.

The new covenant either a) uses the rules from the original covenant or b) has its own set of rules. 

You voiced that you disagreed and cited grace, and what you said sounds like a dangerous hyper-grace perspective:

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Grace is an entirely different system to Law. Under Law, there is a specific list of rules to which adherence determines reward or curse.

...

We cannot break the New covenant by personal disobedience because Christ fulfilled the requirements for us.

If there are no rules, then why do you adhere to rules such as insisting that being gay is wrong (I'm not convinced of the same, for the record, but you did voice that you feel it's wrong)?  Why do you even bother to avoid any sin at all?  And since sin is the transgression of the law, how are you picking and choosing which ones are ok to transgress? 

Maybe we ourselves can't break the new covenant, but would you agree that we can leave it?  Especially considering such verses as: 

Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

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Notice how often the Pharisees complained about Jesus healing on the Sabbath – as though God cared more for strict adherence to Law than he did for those who were suffering.

Jesus didn't violate any old testament rules by healing on the sabbath. 

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It's only 'exaggerated' if you doubt these Bible verses, which depict Paul indeed proving to the Jews that he DID keep the law:

Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. 25 But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.’ 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them” (Acts 21:23-26).

This again seems strange if Jewish rules are no longer required, Jesus was the final sacrifice, etc. I have yet to see a good explanation of this which supports Jewish laws having been done away with.

A few posts ago, you expressed frustration that we were talking in circles. Here is a good example of why. I have several times provided verses where Paul specifically, explicitly, unequivocally addressed this behaviour (i.e. 1 Cor 9:19-22, 10:31-33). No speculation is required because Paul himself directly answered this question. Yet here you again claim a lack of “good explanation” for why Paul sometimes adhered to Law. If you won't hear Paul's own explanation, what chance do I have of convincing you about his motives?

Because those verses aren't in reference to that act.  That act I cited was one of Paul's last before he was killed.  We see his actions (Jewish sacrifices/purifications) and his motive (proving he still kept Old Testament law).  Unrelated passages that seem to generically say something else are irrelevant since Paul's actions and motives are already recorded here together.  My objection remains. 

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If we accept Paul as scripture, then what he teaches is a clarification of the information provided in the gospels (and visa versa).

That's your opinion of how Paul harmonizes.  You assume I share this position, and I'm not sure I do. 

I can see how he's accepted and corroborated by the real apostles, which at least gives his writings a bit of credibility.  That doesn't convince me he's infallible, especially on any points which he makes which appear nowhere else in the Bible.  The history recorded of Paul also make it clear that he was not only a law-abiding Jew but that he made a point to prove that to those who doubted.  To add to the confusion, his writings are interpreted a number of different ways...so the way in which Paul's writings can harmonize really isn't clear. 

In regards to the Sabbath, you wrote:

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As previously discussed, Paul taught that the specific day is less important than the underlying motive (Rm 14:5-6).

Here's the verse: "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."

^ Why do you think that's about Sabbaths? 

If we read the verse in context, we learn why many understand this verse to be simply saying that it doesn't matter which fasting days a person takes:

"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."

Then, of course, we've got the 10 commandments, Jesus' admonition of woe to those who might have to flee on a Sabbath (clearly after his resurrection), and also Isaiah's reference to Sabbath in the context of worshiping God when in heaven.  So there's that, but I could really see Sabbath as its own potential thread if that's something we end up wanting to discuss further. 

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What evidence is there that Matthew 23 is about "obeying authority" rather than obeying Jewish law?

The reason we are given to respect the authority of the scribes and Pharisees is that they hold the office of Moses. We then have to ask ourselves why would the people be tempted to disrespect their authority (i.e. what is the main point Jesus is addressing). The reason given is that the authorities are hypocrites. Jesus devotes the rest of chapter 23 criticising their hypocrisy. That is clearly, overwhelmingly the main point of the passage. As previously discussed, Jesus was obligated by His mission to point people to Moses, but it is a minor introductory point in this overall discourse.

That explanation doesn't work since it ignores the fact that Jesus singled out specific things they said to follow, not all.  Jesus isn't telling them to respect the authorities.  He's saying, "Obey these specific commands they give you from the old testament" and "don't obey any of these man-made teachings".  He specified the Moses seat--and that's the only time these people were instructing obedience to God.  At all other times, they were instructing people to follow the rules of men--which Jesus and his followers did NOT follow-- and you've already cited verses that show you're aware that Jesus did NOT advocate that people obey THOSE things.  (healing on the sabbath was one such verse). 

Re: the rich young man story:

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In verse 21, Jesus invites the man to become a disciple. Even though the man thought he'd kept the Law, the “one thing” he still lacked (i.e. the thing he still needed to “inherit eternal life”) was to “follow” Jesus. It's the same thing we all lacked prior to salvation.

Except he also told him to sell everything he owned.  We're not all required to do that, are we?  So how can you assert that the item which you cherry picked (becoming a disciple) is the qualifier to eternal life? 

 

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On 1/15/2018 at 12:07 PM, stillseeking said:

Why does Jesus never mention during his time on Earth any of the things Paul is teaching? 

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
(Mat 5:17)
 

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
(Rom 10:3-4)
 

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18 hours ago, stillseeking said:

I had said: * 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.

To which you replied:

Why would he need to make a distinction?  Jesus went around doing exactly this (opposing the man-made laws and establishing the Torah laws). 

I had said:

The new covenant obviously does have rules...you seem to have rephrased them as "not doing things that offend God", but "don't do any of these individual things that offend God" is exactly the same as saying don't do X, Y, or Z in the Old Testament, since the very REASON not to do X, Y, or Z OT things was because X, Y, and Z offend God.

The new covenant either a) uses the rules from the original covenant or b) has its own set of rules. 

You voiced that you disagreed and cited grace, and what you said sounds like a dangerous hyper-grace perspective:

If there are no rules, then why do you adhere to rules such as insisting that being gay is wrong (I'm not convinced of the same, for the record, but you did voice that you feel it's wrong)?  Why do you even bother to avoid any sin at all?  And since sin is the transgression of the law, how are you picking and choosing which ones are ok to transgress? 

Maybe we ourselves can't break the new covenant, but would you agree that we can leave it?  Especially considering such verses as: 

Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Jesus didn't violate any old testament rules by healing on the sabbath. 

Because those verses aren't in reference to that act.  That act I cited was one of Paul's last before he was killed.  We see his actions (Jewish sacrifices/purifications) and his motive (proving he still kept Old Testament law).  Unrelated passages that seem to generically say something else are irrelevant since Paul's actions and motives are already recorded here together.  My objection remains. 

That's your opinion of how Paul harmonizes.  You assume I share this position, and I'm not sure I do. 

I can see how he's accepted and corroborated by the real apostles, which at least gives his writings a bit of credibility.  That doesn't convince me he's infallible, especially on any points which he makes which appear nowhere else in the Bible.  The history recorded of Paul also make it clear that he was not only a law-abiding Jew but that he made a point to prove that to those who doubted.  To add to the confusion, his writings are interpreted a number of different ways...so the way in which Paul's writings can harmonize really isn't clear. 

In regards to the Sabbath, you wrote:

Here's the verse: "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."

^ Why do you think that's about Sabbaths?  

If we read the verse in context, we learn why many understand this verse to be simply saying that it doesn't matter which fasting days a person takes:

"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks."

Then, of course, we've got the 10 commandments, Jesus' admonition of woe to those who might have to flee on a Sabbath (clearly after his resurrection), and also Isaiah's reference to Sabbath in the context of worshiping God when in heaven.  So there's that, but I could really see Sabbath as its own potential thread if that's something we end up wanting to discuss further. 

That explanation doesn't work since it ignores the fact that Jesus singled out specific things they said to follow, not all.  Jesus isn't telling them to respect the authorities.  He's saying, "Obey these specific commands they give you from the old testament" and "don't obey any of these man-made teachings".  He specified the Moses seat--and that's the only time these people were instructing obedience to God.  At all other times, they were instructing people to follow the rules of men--which Jesus and his followers did NOT follow-- and you've already cited verses that show you're aware that Jesus did NOT advocate that people obey THOSE things.  (healing on the sabbath was one such verse). 

Re: the rich young man story:

Except he also told him to sell everything he owned.  We're not all required to do that, are we?  So how can you assert that the item which you cherry picked (becoming a disciple) is the qualifier to eternal life? 

 

*******************************************************************

"

Here's the verse: "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."

^ Why do you think that's about Sabbaths?"

*******************************************************************

Romans 14: 6, He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 

.

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21 hours ago, stillseeking said:

I had said: ...

Paul's letters ... can indeed be interpreted as opposition to the traditions of MAN rather than opposition to any of the laws God gave to Moses.

My main objection to this approach is that Paul nowhere makes this very important distinction.

Why would he need to make a distinction?

When Paul uses the term “Law”, there are almost always qualifiers in the context that specify that he means “the laws God gave to Moses”. For example, when Paul said, “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), he was explicitly referring to “the law, which was four hundred and thirty years” after the covenant God made with Abraham (verse 17); an unequivocal reference to the Law given to Moses. When Paul said, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son” (Galatians 4:30), he was explicitly referring to the covenant “from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage” (verses 21-25); i.e. Sinai - where Moses received the Law from God. And in continuing that thought, Paul compels Christians to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1); that is, having been set free, don't enslave yourself to the bondage of the Sinai covenant (aka the Law given to Moses). And if there was still any doubt, he uses circumcision (a requirement of the Law) as a more specific example (verses 2-3).

And that's all just from one short letter. So if Paul ever uses “the Law” to mean “the traditions of MAN”, it would be incumbent upon him to make that equally obvious – since in the majority of contexts he qualifies his usage as “the laws God gave to Moses”.

 

If there are no rules, then why do you adhere to rules such as insisting that being gay is wrong (I'm not convinced of the same, for the record, but you did voice that you feel it's wrong)? Why do you even bother to avoid any sin at all?

I think you are confusing the issue by conflating a system of “rules” (i.e. law) with the basic concept of morality. That somewhat misses the point.

The Law is system by which ancient Israel related to God; i.e. an explicit list of rules through which blessing or cursing were determined by obedience or disobedience. However, God knows we are too corrupted to be able to measure up to His standards. Therefore, if we are to be saved, a new system is required – a system that doesn't rely on us obeying a list of rules. So the New Covenant is a different system altogether; one that doesn't require our perfection. It is a covenant of grace – meaning unmerited favour; That is, our personal morality has no bearing on God's favour towards us. We are considered by God to be righteous because the penalty for our sin has been paid. So when we who are in this covenant do commit sins, we have an advocate standing between us and God's justice. Justice has no legal right to condemn or curse us because the punishment has already been inflicted on our Saviour. The main purpose of the Old Covenant of Law (i.e. the list of rules) was to guide us to the New Covenant. But then its job is done (Galatians 3:24-25).

So grace actually reinforces the concept of sin – i.e. that there are, in fact, actions that are morally wrong? Without the concept of sin, grace would be meaningless. Nevertheless, the system of grace renders lists of rules logically “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13).

Christians avoid sin because we understand that sin both offends God and destroys us. Sin is bad for us. “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption” (Galatians 6:8) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sin enslaves us (Romans 6:16-17) and is something we need to be saved from. In choosing morality over immorality, we are not obeying a written rule, but deciding to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, rather than succumbing to temptation and the lusts of our flesh. “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

 

And since sin is the transgression of the law, how are you picking and choosing which ones are ok to transgress?

Sin is only a “transgression of the law” to those who are under Law; i.e. to those who are subject to its tenets. Sin existed long before the Law – and so cannot be defined exclusively by the Law. Christians are not obligated to any rule listed in the Law – none whatsoever – no exceptions!!! Christians are not under Law, and therefore cannot transgress the Law. The Law has no authority whatsoever over Christian thought or behaviour. Nevertheless, Christians are obligated to our own conscience towards God; to our sincere love for God; and to the knowledge that sin destroys, enslaves and kills whereas righteousness brings health, freedom and life.

 

Maybe we ourselves can't break the new covenant, but would you agree that we can leave it? Especially considering such verses as:

Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

This is a topic all on its own. I tend to approach this issue from the perspective of, if someone's faith doesn't “endure unto the end”, then they likely never had a saving faith to begin with – i.e. they weren't really in the covenant. As Mark 4:13-20 suggests, there are a variety of reasons why some people have a seemingly temporary faith. So their eventual falling-away from the faith calls into question the ultimate sincerity of their initial faith confession.

But I would definitely claim that we can reject the offer to enter into the covenant. That is a matter of free-will.

 

those verses aren't in reference to that act. That act I cited was one of Paul's last before he was killed. We see his actions (Jewish sacrifices/purifications) and his motive (proving he still kept Old Testament law). Unrelated passages that seem to generically say something else are irrelevant since Paul's actions and motives are already recorded here together. My objection remains.

You cited an example of Paul deciding to keep the Law as evidence that Paul considered himself doctrinally obligated to keep the Law. I cited quotes from Paul's own words stating explicitly that he sometimes keeps the Law for the specific purpose of gaining an opportunity to win over those who are under Law. If that's not directly relevant to your “objection”, then we are from different planets.

 

If we accept Paul as scripture, then what he teaches is a clarification of the information provided in the gospels (and visa versa). 

That's your opinion of how Paul harmonizes. You assume I share this position, and I'm not sure I do.

I did not assume you “share this position”. It was clearly stated as a conditional proposition.

Nevertheless, this continues to highlight the importance of choosing a standard (or canon) for scripture before considering how or whether Paul harmonises. If you decide that Paul is not scripture, then we have different faiths. My faith considers Paul to be scripture. As a prolific author of the New Testament, Paul's writings heavily influence how I understand my faith. If you decide that Paul is scripture, then there is no question that Paul does harmonise. The only question is how. But trying to discuss both issues at once is self-defeating. There is little point to discussing Paul's doctrine until you decide whether or not Paul is scripture.

 

I can see how he's accepted and corroborated by the real apostles, which at least gives his writings a bit of credibility. That doesn't convince me he's infallible

So by what standards do you accept other scriptures as scripture? Why is Exodus and Matthew scripture? What are the standards you'll accept? Either Paul meets your chosen standards, or he doesn't. That's the first logical step in this process. We've been approaching this conversation from the wrong direction.

 

especially on any points which he makes which appear nowhere else in the Bible

This is irrelevant. If Paul is scripture, then these “points” are scripture.

 

Here's the verse: "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."

^ Why do you think that's about Sabbaths?

Why do you think Sabbaths are excluded? It's a general statement that some people think some days are more important to God than others, whilst others believe that every day is equally important. Sabbaths clearly fall under the purview of this statement.

 

If we read the verse in context, we learn why many understand this verse to be simply saying that it doesn't matter which fasting days a person takes:

I don't think anyone truly examining the context could sincerely come to this conclusion. In Romans 14, verse 2, Paul introduces an example distinguishing between those who eat “only vegetables”, and those who eat “all things”. In verse 5 Paul introduces another example distinguishing between the one who “esteems one day above another” and the one who “esteems every day alike”. Verse 6 is a summary of the point of those two examples. Nothing to do with “fasting days”.

 

Regarding Matthew 23 you said, “Jesus isn't telling them to respect the authorities. He's saying, "Obey these specific commands they give you from the old testament" and "don't obey any of these man-made teachings".

But Jesus doesn't make that distinction. He said, “whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do” (verse 3) – which would include the “man-made teachings”. It's a general statement to respect the office of those in authority, but without being tempted to emulate their poor example of hypocrisy.

 

Regarding Mark 10:17-22 you said, “he also told him to sell everything he owned. We're not all required to do that, are we? So how can you assert that the item which you cherry picked (becoming a disciple) is the qualifier to eternal life?

You are being persnickety. Jesus described the whole process as “One thing”. For this man, selling his possessions was first step in following Jesus – which was clearly the outcome Jesus was referring to.

 

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Paul is not a Torah observant, as the term observant can be a very misleading term. A Torah observant could mean someone insists on abiding the Mosaic Law to a high extent and tend to reject Christianity. Thus it shouldn't be used to describe Paul.

Torah-observant Jews don't necessarily reject Christianity.  Even today, there are Jewish believers of Jesus. 

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You are confused about what Law and covenants are.  

Everyone, both Jews and gentles, are born with and bound by an older covenant. The New Covenant doesn't come with your birth. It's a covenant chosen with consent when you are grown up.

You as gentile is bound by an old covenant (could well be from Noah), you thus need to act by your conscience and moral code to the best as you are aware of. However, this won't save you because you are expected to fail at some point. You need the New Covenant for your salvation. Even Christians need to deal with their sins, it is because you may consider covenants have the 'overlapping' effect. Even when you are a Christian saved by your faith, you need to act by conscience and moral code. It is a misunderstand to say because you are a Christian thus you have no law thus you can break every single piece of law acting upon you. This is never a biblical idea. To put it another way, you need to always act in accordance to the covenant born and bound with you. As gentiles, the law given to us through an older covenant is the "law written in our hearts" which is our conscience and moral code.

This doesn't sound very definitive, unfortunately. 

You state that I as a Gentile am bound by an old covenant.  However, you then continue and suggest that it might have started at Noah, but you're not really sure when it began (correct me if I'm understanding you wrong).  This is confusing and not definitive. 

Do you have scriptures to support the specifics of your viewpoint? 

If the law of the new covenant is our conscience and moral code, then why does Paul name a list specific sins which will prevent one from entering the kingdom? 

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All such “ lists” are either taken out of context or are not addressed to The Body of Christ.The sin issue has been resolved via the Cross.Unbelief in Paul’s Gospel is what damns.

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“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
(Mat 5:17)
 

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
(Rom 10:3-4)

If you keep reading Matthew, verse 18 says: " For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

Heaven and Earth are still here.  What you have posted is one of the contradictions I struggle with: Jesus says the law will never pass away until Heaven and Earth do, and yet Paul claims that it did.  Do you have an answer for how you believe this harmonizes? 

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Here's the verse: "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."

^ Why do you think that's about Sabbaths?"

*******************************************************************

Romans 14: 6, He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. 

I still wonder why many purport these verses to be about the Sabbath. 

Many early Christians followed the Sabbath, in some parts of the world it's still common, and the context of the time the verses above was a population where fasting on certain days was a common thing--and not necessarily designated holy days. 

I know WHAT you believe about these passages, that they refer to Sabbaths (and not fasting or other things).  Please explain WHY you think this way. 

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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), he was explicitly referring to “the law, which was four hundred and thirty years” after the covenant God made with Abraham (verse 17);

Thanks for this specific.  I know there are portions which refer to a law of sin and death, and portions, like this one, which refer to the whole of the law of Moses.  I still am unsure how this harmonizes with Jesus' command in Matt 23:1 to obey the literal Torah but ignore the religious leaders' other words. 

Why would Jesus say to obey it, where here, Paul tells us it's a tutor?  What then actually defines sin? 

Furthermore, if the WHOLE of the law is "a tutor", then any tendency we have to discard "ceremonial" laws ought to apply to "moral" ones as well, as they're all included in "the law, which was four hundred and thirty years".  Obviously we're not to disregard some laws.  Which ones?  Why? 

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And if there was still any doubt, he uses circumcision (a requirement of the Law) as a more specific example (verses 2-3).

I get that circumcision is specifically mentioned throughout the NT as no longer required, as it is specifically mentioned.  I'm fuzzy on what else is/isn't required.  I thought Acts 15:28 was such a distinction for a while ("It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.")...but, later, it was pointed out to me that James tacked on his reason for such a short list: "For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”"...which seems to imply that the Gentiles would learn the rest of it in synagogue which they'd be attending. 

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We are considered by God to be righteous because the penalty for our sin has been paid. So when we who are in this covenant do commit sins, we have an advocate standing between us and God's justice. Justice has no legal right to condemn or curse us because the punishment has already been inflicted on our Saviour. The main purpose of the Old Covenant of Law (i.e. the list of rules) was to guide us to the New Covenant. But then its job is done (Galatians 3:24-25).

The OT still is used to define what sin IS, though.  Jesus tells us to avoid sin even at extreme costs (through the analogies of cutting out one's own eye, etc.)  Sure, we're covered if we mess up, but it would be extremely ignorant of us to insist that because we're covered, we shouldn't even try.  It seems fitting that we ought to be extremely aware of what sin is, and sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). 

I do agree that we're covered if we screw up.  I am not sure, though, why some OT laws are then considered to to define sin and others aren't (at least by most Christians, who disregard those that they classify as "ceremonial"). 

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So grace actually reinforces the concept of sin – i.e. that there are, in fact, actions that are morally wrong? Without the concept of sin, grace would be meaningless. Nevertheless, the system of grace renders lists of rules logically “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13).

I'm still not really sure what to take away from this.  I currently accept that:

1) We should try not to sin

2) We're covered if we mess up

3) Sin is defined as...?  All OT laws?  Some OT laws?  The 9 commandments + love God / love neighbor (only bc you guys don't seem to like the one about the Sabbath)?  Why/why not BTW?

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In choosing morality over immorality, we are not obeying a written rule, but deciding to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, rather than succumbing to temptation and the lusts of our flesh. “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Is this ^ how you would define sin, then?  Why is it also said, then, that sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4)? 

Praying about everything, you often just won't get answers.  It's sort of why we have the Bible in the first place, to guide us.  Then everyone jumps all over everyone because some people think ABC is ok and others think it's wrong, for a huge array of issues. 

I'm not seeing a logical way to tie all this together.  Sin is the transgression of the law, but it's also "walking in the spirit", but also some OT moral laws apply, but several "ceremonial" ones don't???  I just don't see the biblical support for this, and yet this weird and contradictory view is held by the majority of Christians I know, and none of them can explain it logically. 

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Christians are not obligated to any rule listed in the Law – none whatsoever – no exceptions!!!

Then on what basis do you justify labeling anyone else's behavior as sin?  Or, your own behavior?  When churches in Revelation are called out for tolerating "sin", what were they doing if not breaking rules?  I'll go back to my example from before: On what basis do you claim that being gay is wrong?  There are certainly gay Christians who walk in the spirit.  Many of them even tried being married, even multiple times, to women, and of course it didn't work. 

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If you decide that Paul is not scripture, then we have different faiths.

I think I've mentioned previously, but I'll state again that at this point, my thinking is that there's enough consistency among early apostolic writers and others who were close to them to establish that Paul is probably credible, and my questions at present mainly circle around HOW he harmonizes with what Jesus actually said. 

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I can see how he's accepted and corroborated by the real apostles, which at least gives his writings a bit of credibility. That doesn't convince me he's infallible

So by what standards do you accept other scriptures as scripture? Why is Exodus and Matthew scripture? What are the standards you'll accept? Either Paul meets your chosen standards, or he doesn't. That's the first logical step in this process. We've been approaching this conversation from the wrong direction.

If you believe in simply "walking by the spirit", then fallible scriptures don't present a problem :)  Sin is transgression of the law, though, not transgression of having walked in the spirit wrong. 

All scriptures are potentially fallible because they're written by fallible people.  We have bits and pieces and not a whole lot of clarity.  We have letters and varying iewpoints and histories that paint a fuzzy picture.  I don't see a problem with this.  We're trying to figure out bits of history, the same way historians figure out other bits of history. 

All of the randomness actually gives Christianity credibility, IMHO.  Christian gospels are comprised of letters and histories and genealogies and such, whereas other holy texts purport to be miraculous flowery poetry of sorts.  In other words, the way we know about Jesus is kind of the same way historians know about other historical people, and that in itself is significant.  Nonetheless, I digress.  We're still comparing the ideas presented by Jesus, as we have them, and those presented by Paul. 

How they harmonize is going to be a product of our interpretations.  I've proposed a few ideas, and you've also proposed one (yours, namely).  Ultimately, only one interpretation can be the truth, and that's what I'm after here. 

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Why do you think Sabbaths are excluded? It's a general statement that some people think some days are more important to God than others, whilst others believe that every day is equally important. Sabbaths clearly fall under the purview of this statement.

Because of the 10 commandments and because of the 7th day being blessed long before the Torah was given and because according to Isaiah we'll mark Sabbaths again in the future...and because God doesn't change. 

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I don't think anyone truly examining the context could sincerely come to this conclusion. In Romans 14, verse 2, Paul introduces an example distinguishing between those who eat “only vegetables”, and those who eat “all things”. In verse 5 Paul introduces another example distinguishing between the one who “esteems one day above another” and the one who “esteems every day alike”. Verse 6 is a summary of the point of those two examples. Nothing to do with “fasting days”.

Why would you assume that, though?  You haven't said why you think it's Sabbaths and not fasting days.  Religious people of the time would fast on certain days to 'be more holy' than each other.  Jesus even called them out when they were being hypocrites.  It's established that people fasting on various days for devotional reasons was common practice. 

And again, why would God negate one of the 10 commandments, especially the one that he seems to have established all the way back in Genesis?  Paul cancelling Sabbaths through one super vague verse doesn't seem that likely based on what we already know about God and his rules up to this point. 

We need more proof to be able to establish what you are claiming here. 

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But Jesus doesn't make that distinction. He said, “whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do” (verse 3) – which would include the “man-made teachings”. It's a general statement to respect the office of those in authority, but without being tempted to emulate their poor example of hypocrisy.

Read carefully.  He's talking about those sitting in the Moses seat specifically--the place you sit when you're reading the Torah literally and not making commentary:

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them."

Jesus is telling people to listen to the people in the Moses seat--the ones reading the Torah verbatim. 

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Regarding Mark 10:17-22 you said, “he also told him to sell everything he owned. We're not all required to do that, are we? So how can you assert that the item which you cherry picked (becoming a disciple) is the qualifier to eternal life?

You are being persnickety. Jesus described the whole process as “One thing”. For this man, selling his possessions was first step in following Jesus – which was clearly the outcome Jesus was referring to.

Haha well no, not really.  It's a serious question.  Remember I probably don't see things the way you do, or the way most people do. 

You've cherry picked that the point of the story of the rich young ruler was that being a disciple is the qualifier to eternal life, and I'd really like o understand why.  Reading the story, we see other specifics.  Why not them?  What is the ACTUAL reason it's not them?  What is the actual reason you believe it's 'being a disciple'? 

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