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The Deeper Level of Christian Obedience pg.2


Before Jesus Christ made atonement for our sins through His death and resurrection, God’s children did not have the inner reality of the Holy Spirit. Instead, they had the external reality of the ceremonial law (i.e. the sacrificial system and all the related ordinances) that was a foreshadow of the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ came to replace the external reality of the ceremonial law with the internal reality of the Holy Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit Christians are able to keep the moral law in a way that Israel was unable to under the primitive structure of the ceremonial law. In a sense, the ceremonial law was a form of “training wheels” that are no longer necessary because of the inner guidance and enabling of the Holy Spirit, also known as the “Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9). “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17) The apostle Paul corrected the church of Galatia when they started returning to the ceremonial law: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6)

In addition to the moral law and the ceremonial law, before the time of Christ God gave the nation of Israel detailed civil law for governing their everyday affairs. Certain commands in the New Testament for Christians that don’t fall under the category of the moral law could be considered the Christian’s counterpart to the ceremonial law and civil law of Israel. These commands include communion (Luke 22:19), the great commission (Matthew 28:19), church protocol, requirements to be a pastor, and others. In certain instances the apostle Paul gave instruction that he did not consider to be commands from God but rather his own advice - howbeit, the advice of a very wise person. (1 Corinthians 7:12, 7:25, 7:40) 1 Corinthians 7:25 is especially noteworthy; on a particular matter he explained that the Lord had not given him a specific command and then went on to say, "yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy." In other instances the apostle Paul considered his instructions to be direct commands from God (1 Corinthians 7:10, 2 Thessalonians 3:6).


There was a time when the apostle Peter, a Jew who grew up under the ceremonial law, struggled with the passing of the ceremonial law. Under the ceremonial law animals were classified as “clean” and “unclean”. Only clean animals could be eaten. At one point God gave Peter a vision about eating unclean animals to help him see that he was no longer under the ceremonial law. (Acts 10:9-16) At another time Peter succombed to the pressure of a group who taught that Christians needed to follow the ceremonial law. The apostle Paul arrived on the scene and confronted Peter: “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision [those who taught that Christians were required to be circumcised]... But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?'” (Galatians 2:11-14)

Circumcision is a good example of the contrast between the ceremonial law and the work of the Spirit in place of the ceremonial law: “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ...” (Colossians 2:11) The apostle Paul wrote to Gentiles, “Don't forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders by birth. You were called 'the uncircumcised ones' by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts.” (Ephesians 2:11) The ceremonial law only changed the exterior, but the Holy Spirit changes our heart.

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