In prior posts in this series, we looked at statements from the book of Acts. Have you thought about why these details are there? Consider who wrote this text. Dr. Luke was the only author of a Biblical book who was not Jewish. In his other book (named after him), we also see details that stand out from the other gospels.
Is it possible that God selected Luke for this role precisely because his perspective was different? Could it be that his training as a doctor caused him to be more precise or that his gentile perspective made him more aware of certain details? Think about it. If a Jew had written Acts 21:20, would he have included the words “and they are all zealous for the law?” It’s possible, but I suspect this statement would have been assumed, rather than stated.
Obviously, I believe each word was inspired (or breathed out) by God. Yet, I also acknowledge that God hand picks skilled craftsmen to do the work. (See Exodus 35:30-35) What a marvelous thing that God invites mere mortals to join Him in His work, allowing their individual skills to leave a mark on His masterpiece.
Enough from the disciples
These examples from the book of Acts are what I call “The Practices” – evidence from the daily lives of the early believers. Now let’s leave Acts and consider what Jesus himself said about the law. I call this the “Proclamation”. After all, is there any higher authority? Could Paul or any of the apostles for that matter, overturn the words of the Messiah himself? (I hope you gave a resounding “No!”)
If you have not found our observations compelling to this point, this next passage should work. It is one passage that many Christian pastors deliberately avoid. Answering questions about this passage strikes fear deep into many hearts. The reason is real: It goes directly against false teaching about the law of Moses. It questions all the lingering tenants of Replacement theology.
What the Master said
“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. I tell you the truth, 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.” (Matthew 5:17-18, NIV)
To make VERY sure we don’t assume he’s not really talking about OBEYING the Law, Jesus adds the next 2 verses. “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19-20, NIV)
The uncomfortable implications
Quite a proclamation, right? Jesus categorically states (my paraphrase) that while heaven and earth exist, the binding authority of the law of Moses remains undiminished – in every respect. So that creates a conundrum. For us who are not only gentile believers but are now removed by 2,000 years from Yeshua’s proclamation – where does that leave us?
No easy escape
There are a few (very few), who try to suggest that Jesus’ words were directed at a Jewish audience and therefore, do not apply to any Gentile believers. Later, as Matthew himself records, Jesus removed that possibility when he told his 11 disciples: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mattew 28:19-20, NIV)
First, when Jesus said “all nations”, do you think he was including gentiles? Second, when he said “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” did he then say, “Except for those direct statements I made about the law of Moses staying in force?” No, as far as I can tell, “everything” still means “everything.”
The problem is, many of us have never been trained how to make these distinctions. Worse, some of us have been given misleading instructions on how to perform this vitally important exercise. If the Lord wills, I intend to address that topic shortly. Before I do however, I need to take one quick turn back into the book of Acts. Hang tight.