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Response to a Good Natured Challenge

Overnight we got a tongue-in-cheek comment/question from a friend in the UK.  It came in the form of a fairly long note, but raises an important question. So I’m going to copy the comment here, break it after a few lines, and then let you read and respond to the rest of the comment.

The comment begins like this,

I am now retired and spend a bit of time reading the Bible. Also I am an avid reader of your Web site.

Thank you so much for enlightening the people regarding God’s law, however, I need some advice from you, regarding some of God’s law.

1) Lev.l8:12 clearly state “it is an abomination to have homosexual relations,When people bring up the subject, I just don’t answer.

2) I have tried to burn a bull in my back yard, as an offering to God, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord, Lev.l :9. The problem is my neighbors, they claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

3) I know that I am not allowed to have any contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness, Lev. 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, most women took offense.

4) Lev.25:24 States that, I may indeed posses slaves, both males and females, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. Does that includes New Zealand, or it only apply to Indonesia, and New Guinea, only?

5) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7 In this day and age, what is a fair price for her?”

6) Lev. 11:10. Clearly state that eating shell fish is an abomination. Is that to say that if a person is found to eat shell fish, he/she must be slain like the Homosexuals?

OK, I think that is enough to begin responding to… except it’s important to know that the comment ended with, “I know that God’s Law, and commandments are rigid, eternal, and unchangeable.”

The comment reminds me of a book titled “The Year of Living Biblically…. one man’s humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible, by A.J. Jacobs. It’s more humorous than serious, but it reflects, as the above comment does, what happens when you try to apply the laws of the Old Testament to today.

As I understand the comment/question, there are a couple of issues to begin with. One is that the writer is right in pointing out that the Bible does say that God’s law is eternal. The second is that, even though the New Testament shows that what is eternal about the law is its heart and meaning (rather than its form), and although the New Testament makes it clear that followers of Christ are part of a new community called the church– and not bound by the national law of Israel– many of us do reach back into the Old Testament with a “pick and choose” approach to which moral issues we want to support from the Old Covenant. That raises the issue of consistency.

While books could be written on the subject, let me see if I can at least begin to net out a response.

1.  The New Testament shows that the form of the law given to national Israel at Mount Sinai was meant to be a temporary tutor that was in force until the coming of Christ/Messiah  (Galatians 3:23-25). That law was nationalistic in its civil and ceremonial forms and is not to be a binding factor on the present international body of Christ we call the church.

2.  Yet at the same time, the Apostle Paul says that all Scripture is useful to the follower of Christ (2Timothy 3:16). In making this comment, he supports the idea that there is something about the Law of God that is timeless in significance.

3.  One thing the New Testament does is show how Jesus the Messiah personally fulfilled the eternal principle of the law (as seen in the heart of the law– which is to love God with all of our heart– and to love others as ourselves), and took it upon himself to make it possible for us to be justified (declared blameless) through our trust in him– rather than by trying to keep the law (in any form).

4. What the New Testament also does is net out the timeless and eternal principle of the law of God (as rooted in God’s own personality and character)– not as a means of salvation, but as a means of loving God and One another through his Spirit. This “netting out of the law”, leaves behind the nationalistic forms and enforcements that were meant to provide a civil, legal, and ceremonial culture to Israel.

5. Today we need to use the Old Testament to see how God has used history to reveal himself until all of that revelation converged and became personified in Jesus, his Son.  With that perspective, the challenge of interpretation and application is to find timeless principles, illustrated in the Old Testament, and applied in the freedom of spirit that the New Testament calls us to.

6. Trying to find the timeless principle so that we can apply it appropriately for our own time and situation can be a difficult but worthwhile challenge.

7. What is most important is that we allow all of the history, law, poetry, and prophecies of the Old Testament to bring us to the Messiah himself, so that our focus is on the personified truth, and love, and grace that we find in Jesus. Once we are in him, our effort needs to be to look for timeless principles that enable us to reflect his eternal goodness, and wisdom, and spirit toward God and one another.

Well, this went longer than I hoped, and is only the beginning of my response to one comment– the rest of which you can read below…

What follows is the rest of “A Good Natured Challenge”…

7) Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if, I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that, I wear glasses, my vision is not 20/20. Is there any room for wiggle room here?

8) Most of my males relatives get their hair trimmed including the hair around their temples, even this is expressly forbidden by Lev.l9:27. How should they die?

9) I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of dead pigs is unclean. How should I play Football?

10) My uncle has a farm. He constantly violate the law by planting two different crops Lev.l9:19. He also tend to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it necessary that we get the whole town together to bum him? Or could we just do it in a private family affair like people who sleep with their in-laws? Lev.24:10-16, and Lev.20:14.

11) If a bride is found not to be a virgin, who should stone her to death? her family, or the groom family? Deu.22:13-21.

12) I found my young son masturbating. How should I kill him? Gen.38:9-10

13) Lev. 18:19 State that if a couple have sex while the woman has her period, then both should be killed. How do find out if my son and wife are doing the right thing by the Lord commandment.

14) Mark 10:12 State divorce is forbidden, as remarriage, should I keep friendly with my neighbors, who both were divorced and now remarried ? Or should I regard them as sinners.

15) As a christian, how could I beleive in Jesus, the son of God, Whom himself was a Jew, every second of his life was spent obeying God’s Law, lived and died as a Jew, and yet, Christians do not live their life like Jews and obeying God’s law, as directed in the Bible?

I know that God’s Law, and commandments are rigid, eternal, and unchangeable.

Yours Faithfuly.
Charles in a dilemma.

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18 Responses to “Response to a Good Natured Challenge”

  1. aboss says:

    To be honest, this has always been a very confusing area for me. I’ve been part of many different ‘denominations’ of churches and they all seem to have a different take on this – from obeying all 600+ laws in the OT to picking and choosing whatever seems to apply culturally for the current times. “Charles in a dilemma” seems to have landed on the more extreme rules, but there are a lot of rules in both the OT and NT that most Christians ignore or massage to fit the current culture. This often turns the church into a political stomping ground as people fight it out as to which ‘rules’ apply. How ugly is that?

  2. desert rose says:

    Some situations are not “good natured.” Our daughter, does not believe homosexuality or cross dressing is wrong, it is simply a life style, just as right as her choice to be married to her husband.

    To justify her beliefs she makes exactly some of those same “good natured” comments you wrote about. She and I had discussed this homosexuality or cross dressing and as she doesn’t believe any of Paul’s writings and Jesus said to love unconditionally, to not judge etc. That this is a natural behavior that has gone on forever.

    Why is this so sad? Because she has opened up her home to our friends’ 18 year old son, who left home because they did not believe it was Biblical. Her teenagers believe the same way and none of them go to church any more.

    So….maybe this is not “good natured challenge.” Do you have any advice?

  3. Brother Larry says:

    Galatians 1:16-21 Please this passage of the Bible and realize that it was writen by Paul, who’s first name was Saul. Who went out of his way to persecute the church or destory it. In doing sow he broke many laws, not only by murder but also in the way his minstry was started. Brethern, we must remember that we entered into our place of worship with God through Faith: Faith in the fact that there is a God, because none of us have actually seen God. It’s by faith we believe. With that said we must continue to the end in the way that we begin. Remember that Jesus was the last offering to God for our sins, so whenever we call on the name of Jesus and through his blood is the only way of victory over sin. Plus Matthew 26:41 Says,”Watch and Pray, that we enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Also read Mark 11:22-26, I hope this helps! In all thy getting, get understanding! Selah

  4. BruceC says:

    Wow Mart, you really come up with some deep difficult topics that are thought provoking. Jesus’ fulfilling of the law didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are many kinds of laws, some which don’t apply to the church and did apply to Israel as a nation. Remember God called them a stubborn lot of people and rebellious. So God was very, very strict with them. But there are many of those laws that are still considered sin today. Eating shellfish is not one of the them as the Lord Himself showed Peter…”Come and kill and eat..” Homosexuality is still sin in God’s eyes along with adultery, stealing, murder, etc. These kind of laws are both civil and spiritual and show us what sin is. There are many folks out there today just trying to do nothing more than confuse the issue and confuse people too. Sometimes I wonder where their faith really is.

  5. ECEIT says:

    talking about laws? rules? I always believe that for every rule, there is always an exception.
    Even in man’s law, most of the laws have counterparts, that would probably be the reason why we have lawyers and judges. Same thing as we have our hearts and minds and considering Godly intensions.
    Even logic or mathematics which often gives you figures they called exact has its exception and you’ll just have to accept that there are some things that should be that way.
    *** just a thought

  6. RichardR says:

    Throughout my life, I’ve come to understand that the measure of any person is not in what they do, but rather, why they do it.

  7. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Afeternoon everyone, Mart, I pray you Mart and others do not get angered at me for saying i do not believe every word in the bible came from God.
    i cannot believe God contradicts himself, and to many of the stautes that have been listed were put down by God when he was on earth.
    The many thoughts concerning different foods mentioned, i believe the Holy Spirit convined Peter at least that he should not things common that God had cleansed, even though God’s main point was the gentiles could and would be cleansed.
    But also God says that all things are cleansed if, there is that big word ( IF ) recieved in thansgiving.
    Another big thought that i believe Jesus was saying, your forefathers said an eye for an eye, but i never said that, never return evil for evil.
    I believe the whole law is fulfilled if i love everyone God puts in my life, if i love a person, thoughts of doing them wrong is not in my being.
    I believe God desires for me to love another person no matter what i think about their life style, even the most vile person, Hitler, Sadam Husaien, Charles Manson, I know absolutely God loves them, and desires for them to live with Him, even homosexuales that seems to be a more terrible way of life than other things to some.
    I am not homsexual, but i do believe it is not any different than a natural married couple that decides to not have any children just enjoy sex, but once again, i believe every thing in life is a matter of opinion, even things pertaining to God, that is why there are many, many denominations, not good, but that is how it is.

  8. LisaG says:


    I use to have an account with aol and there was this guy who’s screen name was ______. This whole thing reminds me of him. He would post questions such as these, not out of actual desire for knowledge but to cause trouble. I feel that this person is really just making a mockery of the law of Moses and todays PC attitudes of what is acceptible in society. It seems that there is a desire to make fools of us all. So I will approach it with prayer for this person to be born again and receive the Spirit of Truth so that wisdom and knowledge and the understanding to use it would take place.

    Love, Agape Style

  9. Mart De Haan says:

    Because Jesus and the NT affirm the authority of Moses and the prophets, I’m convinced we have reason to believe that all of it is a revelation of God (Matt 5:17-18; 2Tim 3:16; 2Peter 1:20,21). The NT helps us find the timeless principles.

  10. Mart De Haan says:

    desert rose, my heart goes out to you and your daughter. When I used “good natured” I didn’t mean to imply that the issues are not serious.

  11. LisaG says:

    Hello again,

    I agree in your response…yet if we approach God in this age of grace with the works of the law…just as they failed in times past, we shall fail as well. The law pointed to the need of a savior which we have now through faith in the cross and Christ crusified. Cleaning the outside of the cup never works. God is concerned with our hearts. There are many religious folks out there still living a very frustrating life trying to earn right standing with God. Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do…but to place your faith in it is a recipe for disappointment.

    Love, Agape Style

  12. daisymarygoldr says:

    My respectful, good natured response to “A Good Natured Challenge”…sorry for its length, lack of grace and offensive content:

    1) “I just don’t answer”- because I choose to love the pervert and hate the perfect. Homosexual lifestyle can be likened to a lock trying to fit with a lock or a key fitting with a key. God has created us emotionally, anatomically, biochemically and genetically distinct as males and females to complement and perfectly function as ‘a key fitting with a lock’ to unlock the mysteries of God!
    2) “I have tried to burn ‘a’ bull”- I would have to burn ‘bulls’ every year of my life (Heb 10:4)
    3) “Contact with most women”- If you mean sexual, its obvious the woman is not your wife because you don’t have to “ask” or “tell” your own body… If its mere social contact at the workplace or church then you must be still living in that bygone Levitical era when feminine hygiene products were not available and today the implication of that impurity is not about the physical but the spiritual cleanliness for Christians (both men and women).
    4) “Slaves”- Christians consider themselves as being enslaved to God because Christ came to serve and not to be served. In our secular jobs we gladly serve our earthly masters in our service to God and lovingly lead as ‘servant-leaders’ in humility towards our heavenly Master.
    5) “What is a fair price for her?”- Will have to ask my Dad about how much he had to spend on my education…. it cannot be estimated.
    6) “Shellfish”- and other crustaceans are the natural filters (of oceans, rivers and lakes) whose bodies are created to accumulate toxic levels of heavy metals and other harmful substances. The ones being eaten and served today are farm-raised…so go enjoy a big yummy lobster or crab for dinner!

    I think I need to stop here and let Charles work out his dilemma by seeking the wisdom of God whose Law and commandments are rigid, eternal, and unchangeable. Therefore, God( the only one without sin or defect) in the person of Jesus had to fulfill (not do away with) the law so that we don’t have to do these things anymore.

    Wondering if Charles also frowns and despises the traffic rules too…just got hit the other day by a reckless guy driving at 110 on a 75 mph zone. (Note aside: Sometimes, I secretly wish for lightening to strike people when they break the road rules and hurt the innocent law abiding ones…however, I soon ask God to forgive my unloving “attitude”)

    The Law was given to show mankind the standard of God’s Holiness vs. the unclean nature of mankind’s sin. It was given not to condemn but to preserve Life. In choosing to abide by it Christians are not being legalistic but living a discipled life of Christ. By meticulously pointing out the impossibility of keeping the “Law”, the writer must have gotten a sense of the ‘immeasurable love’ that led Jesus to bear the untold pain and suffering of the cross on our behalf.

    How then can a Christian not believe in Jesus and the liberty He offers with love? How big must that mountain of unbelief be that prevents us to acknowledge our sins and accept the saving grace of Jesus Christ?! Praying for Charles and others like him…

  13. poohpity says:

    I also believe that the whole bible is a revelation of God and a revelation of who we are as human beings. The first five books go into details about how God wanted us to live Holy lives. He tried to get our focus, by everything He ordained, off of ourselves and on to Him but it did not work. Israel continues to follow the customs of the world around them, as we do. Through the rest of the OT He sent Judges, Kings, Prophets and natural consequences to try to get our focus back on Him. Did we do it, NO!!

    He came down in human form to tell us again to trust and look to Him He will supply all our needs. Do we do it, NO, not in our own strength. We have a creator who only asks us to look to Him and only Him and glorify Him and only Him. We tend to look at scriptures in light of who we are and not who HE is. His wisdom is not ours and when we try we mess things up. We fight and argue over things written in the Bible because it takes many years of study and looking at it as a whole book with the discernment of the Holy Spirit to guide us into HIS truth.

    It is so easy to pick and choose scripture to fit whatever purpose WE have intended it to say. When there is strife over this wonderful revelation of God you can bet that it is not God’s will. His will is that we know what He has so graciously revealed to us about HIM and how He wants us to treat others. If we are so busy arguing over the Bible then we obviously are not keeping busy serving HIM and maybe want to take a look at who we are really serving and where our heart is.

  14. Gena says:

    I think I am developing a headache reading all those OT laws. I thought it was understood that Jesus became the perfect sacrifice and that if we believeth in Him we shall have everlasting life. He is the bridge between OT and NT is He not? If He had not been born to Mary and died on the cross for our sins, then we would be observing all those OT laws. I certainly do not intend on being concerned about selling my daughter into slavery!

  15. Ted M. Gossard says:

    Yes, Mart. Good thoughts in working through it.

    I look at it as a new covenant and a new nation bearing the fruit Jesus spoke of which God longed for from his people. This is not a parenthetical age but a fulfillment age in Jesus the Messiah in whom all Jews and Gentiles are called to put their faith and obey; we in Jesus are the people of God, the new Israel, I believe. And as Hebrews says, the old covenant is gone as the new in Jesus has replaced it.

    Of course there is continuity between the old and the new covenants as Jesus fulfills the old in himself. But in that fulfillment we now by the Spirit fulfill the requirements of the old covenant, which at its heart is loving God and others as you noted. And that does involve us obeying commands as given to us in the New Testament/new covenant (commands everywhere, not only principles to follow, like in Ephesians, Colossians, Romans, etc).

    Just my take, Mart, and doesn’t directly address the issue as you so well do here. But I think it perhaps complements it, even though we are not in full agreement theologically, though probably closer than what some would think, practically speaking.

  16. Elaa says:

    So Charles in a dilemma, I suppose I should be wondering if I should stop professing my faith and await eternity in hell fire seeing how I married a divorcee!

    Asking Mart such tough/tricky questions will not help anyone, I don’t think. Mart did not write the bible. If I were in Charles’ shoes, I would turn to the Holy Spirit for help, or better still, just take it up with God Himself.

    Bull offering!

  17. Mart De Haan says:

    If anyone is going to be upset, be upset with me. I decided to use “Charles” comments as a post because it is so important for us to see that we are not under the rule and enforcement of the law in the way that Old Testament national Israel was.

  18. Becky M says:

    No upset Mart, showing “Carles” comments does help us to see how impossible it would be to strictly obey them today.
    The tearing of the temple curtain probably could be distinguished as God’s tearing of His mantle showing death of the old Covenant. The awaited messiah had come and opened comunication with God to everyone so we didn’t need to rely on animal sacrifices thru priests any longer. In so doing we did not need to hear the law on holy days any longer. God has written the law in our hearts. We learn directly from God, now that He has provided His sacrifice in His son the messiah.
    I enjoyed everyone’s comments on this thread.

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