The Nomos Reflects the Nature

Ten Commandments

No longer written only on tablets of stone, but on hearts of flesh . . .

Today during lunch I came across Kevin Fiske’s blog, specifically a post called “Killing Moralism.”  It’s a good overall post on the subject, but I found it intriguing that his take on the commandments of God is very close to what you would find coming from a Messianic perspective.  In particular, the following paragraphs were very close to what D. Thomas Lancaster wrote in Restoration:

God’s laws are not arbitrary, but stem from who he is. And, because we are made in his image and for his glory, he gives us commands that reflect his character. So, when holding out the commands of God we must point beyond the command to the God who gives it.

For example, God commands us to be holy, because he is holy. He commands us to speak the truth and not bear false witness against our neighbor, because he is a God of truth who cannot lie. He commands us to be faithful, for he trustworthy and keeps his word. He calls us to love, because he is love. Naked commands, separated from the character of God, lack both weight and compelling beauty. Showing the God of the command moves us from preaching moralism to unpacking theology. It moves us beyond the command to the God who gives it.

I went through Fisk’s Beliefs page and it was fairly standard Protestant Christian theology.  It never even mentions the word “law” or “Torah.”  Not having read very far into the blog as yet, I therefore have to assume that Fisk has devalued the Torah in a typically Christian fashion.  And yet he himself acknowledges that we find the nature of the Holy One revealed in His mitzvot (commandments).

One of the frustrations we Messianics sometimes have with our Sunday Brethren is this unnecessary tension that they bring into their theology.  On the one hand, true Christians will readily acknolwedge that there are commandments for the disciples of Christ to follow even though we are saved by Grace.  On the other hand, as soon as they hit a “Jewish” commandment, they recoil and start trying to explain why, for example, resting on the Sabbath is “a burden too heavy to bear,” a “yoke of slavery” that Jesus came to remove from our shoulders (though He Himself said, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” Mark 2:27), but the commandment to never, ever look at a woman with lust in the heart isn’t.

Frankly, I find keeping from working on the Sabbath and enjoying the Feasts Hashem has graciously given us to be far easier than never lusting, never being angry with my brother, and never speaking a wrong word.

But on the other hand, we have to acknowledge that there is legalism in the Messianic movement.  What do I mean by legalism?  Not the desire to keep Hashem’s commandments ourselves, but the desire to judge others by an arbitrary line that somehow we always manage to draw just behind whatever point we’re at in our walk.  Those who worship on the Sabbath but otherwise treat it as an ordinary day judge those who worship on Sunday, while they in turn are judged by those who won’t even ignite a spark on the seventh day.  Those who separate their meat and dairy judge those who only avoid pork and shellfish, who in turn judge those who don’t keep kosher at all.

That’s not to say that Messianic Judaism is inherantly more legalistic than Christianity–if it were, then Christian authors like Fisk wouldn’t be dealing with the same tightrope between legalism and libertinism that we do–but we have to acknowledge that it is a problem.  In fact, it seems to be a regular phase in new Messianics who first discover the joy of Passover, for example.  They want to share that joy with others and when they don’t get the response they expect, they become frustrated.  Out of that frustration (and sometimes outright rejection from their nominal Christian family and friends) a spark of pride is born.  “They’ve rejected the Scriptures!” Pride says.  “Only I am keeping the Word of God correctly!  They’re all blind–but I see!”

Fiske’s remedy–to show the Grace behind the command and to show the Good News that is above (and, I would add, within) the command–is a much-needed tonic in the Messianic movement, and a much better one, I think, than of trying to cut the One New Man of Ephesians chapter 2 in half again.  I would add that those who are frustrated with others not seeing the whole Torah in the same light that they have been given need to be gently shown all of the ways that they themselves still fall short so that they too can embrace the Grace the Holy One gives us as we grow.

A final kudo: Fiske gets the real first commandment of the Ten correct.  Good on him!  I’m looking forward to archive-binging in his blog.

Shalom

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “The Nomos Reflects the Nature

  1. Shalom Michael,

    Great post brother! While it is very frustrating to see so many brother’s in the faith trash Torah, i’m always remembered of how much mercy and patience G-d has had upon my life. We must all have patience and endure suffering for His sake.

    Like

  2. Michael,

    Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog. Actually, the post in mention was not written by me. As I stated in the post, it was written by Pastor Joe Thorn of Redeemer Fellowship, in St. Charles, IL.

    Regarding my position on the Law, it may be best articulated by Chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession:
    ____________________
    Of the Law of God.

    I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

    II. This law, after his Fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon mount Sinai in ten commandments, and written in two tables; the first four commandments containing our duty toward God, and the other six our duty to man.

    III. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a Church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated under the New Testament.

    IV. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other, now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

    V. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation.

    VI. Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin, and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof; although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works: so as a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace.

    VII. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it: the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.
    ____________________

    I, by no means, intend to “trash Torah” as the last person to comment stated. And, without first inquiring as to my position, I think it is a quite presumptuous judgment. I believe, rather, that the Law is Adonai’s gracious gift to his people; revealing his righteous character, just demands, and leading people to the place where they may understand their need for the person and work of Messiah Jesus as revealed in the gospel.

    Blessings,
    Kevin

    Like

    • Shalom Kevin,

      First, my apologies for misattributing the source of the post, especially since it was right there in the title. That’s what I get for trying to read and comment in one lunch hour. :)

      Second, I agree that you were by no means trashing the Torah and in fact have a very high regard for the commandments of our Father and King. I think Rey has unfortunately mischaracterized your (or rather, Thorn’s) original article.

      The Westminster Confession is, of course, very Calvinist in it’s “Covenant of Works vs. Covenant of Grace” theology, which I think it takes an overly simplistic view of both Law and Grace. It does, however, avoid the anti-nomeanism that is unfortunately prevalent in what I’ll call American pop-Christianity with its admission that the Law still serves “as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty.” While we may disagree on the proper application of specific commandments, I appreciate that the Confession has a great respect for God’s Law as a whole and have never had any trouble with accepting those who hold to it as full brothers and sisters.

      Shalom

      Like

      • Michael and Kevin,

        I hope you guys understand that there was a miscommunication. I never said that Kevin or the article were thrashing Torah, rather i was referring to things that have happened to me in the past. I apologize, I should have made myself clear.

        Like

  3. Kevin Fiske,

    I in no way was talking about you in my comment made above, but was referring to events that i have witnessed and experienced. I take your comment as a mis-communication, no sweat :)

    A life of obedience to the Will/Torah of G-d is correct. Torah reveals G-d’s mind and draws us closer to the Savior. While some of the Commandments have been stopped since Moshiach’s death and resurrection, they will be resumed in the Messianic age – see Ezekiel.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s