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InDepth
The Gospel and the Law, Part 4 The Ceremonial Law


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In our previous articles, we discussed the Moral Law, the New Covenant, and the Civil Law. We need to turn now to the Ceremonial Law.

The Ceremonial Law deals with holiness and ritual purity before God. Although this may sound like laws dealing with religion, this is only partly the case. In the modern world, where we have a distinction between state and religion, it is easy to think of the Civil Law as the law of the state and the Ceremonial Law as the religious rules and regulations of Israel. Unfortunately, the distinction is not so clear in ancient Israel: as in much of the ancient world, religion and government were intricately intertwined.

For example, the Torah includes a number of laws dealing with the Levites, the tribe set apart to serve God and to lead Israel in worship. Details about where they live, many details of their work, the handling of tithes, etc., are not concerned with the issue of holiness per se, and thus are not part of the Ceremonial Law; they instead fall under the Civil Law. In general, regulations that do not pertain to holiness or purity do not fall under the Ceremonial Law but the Civil Law.

Conversely, there are many regulations that do not seem to be particularly religious that deal with issues of purity and thus fall under the Ceremonial Law. The kosher laws for food, the laws dealing with behaviors that make one “unclean,” etc., are not on the surface religious laws but because they deal with issues of ritual purity; they are part of the Ceremonial Law

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Paul's Principles of Intercessory Prayer, Part 2


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As we continue examining Paul’s intercessory prayers, we are struck by the things he asks for the people to whom he ministers. As mentioned in the last article in this series, we need to heed this example from Paul’s four intercessory prayers: If we are to take seriously our roles as reconcilers and restorers of relationships between God and man and woman and of one another, it is the inner person or persons that should be the primary focus of our prayers. The inner person indeed was the primary purpose of Paul’s intercessory prayers.

We have already studied Paul’s two intercessory prayers for the inner person as given in his epistle to the Ephesians, those given in Ephesians 1:16-19 and Ephesians 3:14-19. In this article, we will discuss the first of the last two intercessory prayers of Paul, that given in Philippians 1:9-11, a suitable prayer for this Advent Season which not only looks forward to Christmas, the first Advent or the Coming of our Savior (“Coming” is the meaning of the word “Advent”), but also His second Advent, or His return. Paul asks that we be “be pure and blameless” when He makes His Second Advent.

 

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The Gospel and the Law, Part 3: The Civil Law


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In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, we saw that theologians recognize three facets of the Old Testament Law, the Moral Law, the Civil Law, and the Ceremonial Law. We also saw that the Moral Law still applies to us today in the New Covenant era, and is in fact at the heart of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 33:31ff. But what about the Civil and Ceremonial Laws? Do they have any bearing on us today?

The answer is a qualified yes, especially with respect to the Civil Law. Unlike the Old Covenant, which was given to a single nation, the New Covenant is international in scope. The details of the Civil Law were specifically for the nation of Israel, and thus its provisions no longer apply as written to the church today. But the Civil Law is built on the Moral Law; it explains how the principles of the Moral Law were to be applied in ancient Israel and thus reveals God’s standards for justice as well as the proper responsibilities of civil government. Studying the Civil Law can therefore be very profitable for us if we look for its underlying principles. To understand how this works, it will be helpful to look at a few specific examples.

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Paul's Principles of Intercessory Prayer, Part I


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In the introduction to this series, we mentioned that so often our prayers are for the outer person, rather than the inner person. Our introduction stated:

We generally pray for the needs of the outer person such as control of specific behaviors, employment needs, physical healing, financial needs, just to name a few. These are legitimate needs and indeed warrant prayer. Jesus even included this petition in His Model Prayer which He gave us in Matthew 6: “Give us this day our daily bread.” The problem is, however, that these outer needs are almost invariably the substance of our intercessory requests.

If we are to take seriously our roles as reconcilers and restorers of relationships between God and man and woman and of one another, it is the inner person or persons that should be the primary focus of our prayers. The inner person indeed was the primary purpose of Paul’s intercessory prayers.

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The Gospel and the Law, Part 2


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In the previous article, we looked at the relationship between the Law and the Gospel. The article explained that theologians have identified three facets of the Law of Moses: the moral law, the civil law, and the ceremonial law. The moral law is the only one that remains in force, as is shown by the words of Jesus himself as well as those of the other New Testament authors. To continue our exploration of the relationship of the moral law and the Gospel, we turn now to the Jesus’ teaching of His disciples at the Last Supper and His inauguration of the New Covenant.

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The Gospel and the Law


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In discussions of so-called “same sex marriage,” Christians are frequently accused of hypocrisy for taking the passages in the Law of Moses dealing with homosexual behavior literally but ignoring for example those concerning eating shellfish or wearing clothing made of two different kinds of fiber.

The accusation might bear some weight if the decision about which provisions of the Law to accept were arbitrary. But it isn’t; it is made on the basis of centuries of study, analysis, and reflection by theologians on the Law and its relationship to the Gospel. Understanding why Christians see some laws as binding but not others is important not only for issues such as homosexuality but also for developing a deeper appreciation for the Law and its importance for the Christian life.

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