The following is part of a Facebook conversation regarding the applicability of the Old Testament, specifically surrounding the topic of pacifism. The person on the other end of the debate is a consistent anabaptist who believes in “New Testament Christianity”, and that Jesus requires non-resistance when dealing with all evil. The difference in my understanding is so thoroughly different it is staggering…but here is an excerpt that I thought I would elevate to a blog post:
The difference has been clear to me from the beginning. I believe in continuity, you believe in discontinuity. I believe the whole counsel of God, you believe in “New Testament Christianity”. You believe the law has been abolished, and that grace and heart obedience were introduced in the New Testament. The difference is vast, but I do commend you on being one of the most consistent anabaptists I’ve talked with.
I would say that if the principle of self defense (killing an intruder in certain situations) or principle of restitution/justice (eye for eye) were morally acceptable in the Old Testament that it would be wholly impossible for it to be morally unacceptable for us. God has not changed, his standards of righteousness have not changed. Obviously ceremonial practices have changed in the various administrations of the Covenant – but what is morally good has not and can not change. God does not change, nor are his requirements for righteousness.
Jesus makes this clear earlier in the chapter – that abolishment of these moral precepts is not acceptable, and anyone advocating that type of rejection will be called least in the Kingdom.
This must be a foundational understanding of God’s word when dealing with seemingly contradictory passages. Certainly the eye for eye appears contradictory, but this cannot be. Thus the reason for a wholistic, comprehensive understanding of scripture and doctrine that takes all of what is taught and coalesce it into one doctrine.
Clearly the sermon on the mount was about examining the heart implications of the law, and of righteousness. But your statement that it is either confirming or surpassing is false dichotomy. He was correcting false understandings of the law. Mt5:17-20 clearly stand as a confirmation of the law – and the rest is a proper explanation if what already was – and what will continue until the end of the world: the moral standards of the law.
No doubt you will respond that Jesus fulfilled all of that, and it doesn’t apply. But he clearly says the law will stand until the end of the world. Thus your understanding of fulfill is really an abolishment, which he was crystal clear about.
The heart and internal requirements of the law have always been required – remember the term circumcision of the heart is an OT thing – not a NT thing. The Jews/Pharasees lost that. They were about external obedience, as well as additional rules and regulations.
But as Romans makes clear, the Jews of OT time and All peoples today are justified by faith, and the moral commands apply to us all in all places.
So, yes, he was confirming the law, and doing away with confusions and misapplications, not starting a whole new faith and standard of morality.
So when you say “that Christ brought the OT laws to a higher level forbidding things that formerly were allowed” – I would say that the internal requirements of the law are eternal – do not hate, do not lust, do not covet. The misunderstanding was clear – that the Jews of the OT time (and you) missed that, and thought it was all external. The OT was an internal covenant.
According to your rationale lust and hate we’re ok in the OT, and that this is a new requirement that surpasses the OT requirements. This logically destroys this hermeneutic prima facie.