[the naked gospel] part 3: crossing the line

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September 10, 2009

by Christopher Neufeld

It has been a long time since I have read a book that has been as thought-provoking as The Naked Gospel. I appreciate being able to sit down and read something that challenges my beliefs, yet isn’t insulting. I like to think that I’m a pretty liberal Christian, but I find that this book pushes even my limits, which is awesome. The Naked Gospel is causing me to grow in so many ways and I’m questioning previously unchallenged beliefs and coming away with strengthened resolve in some things I currently hold close, and with new ideas that are helping me grow in other areas of my faith.

There are a number of main points in Part 3 that Farley uses to further illustrate the point that we should be saying “out with the Old and in with the New” all while backing it up with scripture.

lawFarley starts off Part 3 by laying the foundation that Jesus’ teachings were for Jews, not Christians, and that the New Covenant came with the death of Jesus, not his birth.

This idea has the potential to drastically change the way Christians read and interpret the Bible. To say that Jesus’ teachings are for Jews, and not instructions on how Christians are to live is a pretty major deviation from traditional Christian theology, and not one that I’m quick to accept. I do like that Farley backs up everything that he says with scripture, but then scripture can be interpreted to say almost anything you want, so I’m still not 100% sold. It is definitely an interesting idea, and something that deserves more thought than I’ve presently given it.

Following those initial foundational points, Farley goes on to say that while the Old isn’t necessarily abolished, it has no place in the life of a Christian and that we shouldn’t be making our own covenant that is a mix of Old and New. Creating a mix allows us to avoid the “suffering under the stringency of the entire law,” but it also means we don’t “enjoy the bliss of unconditional favour.” Without giving ourselves fully to the guidance of the Holy Spirit within us, we will always find that there is something missing.

I’m one of those people that finds his Christianity to be a mix of the Old and New. And while I don’t suffer from any of the guilt associated with not being able to meet the expectations of a perfect law, neither do I think that we can just throw it all away. Many of the laws from the Old Testament create the very moral fabric of our society, and I don’t understand how the Holy Spirit wouldn’t guide us along similar paths. I don’t understand why we can’t keep some of the old laws, without the guilt associated with not living up to them.

The final main point to this part is Grace. “Grace isn’t just a treatment for sin; it’s actually the cure for sin!” Farley does an excellent job with his description of grace in this section. He explains that grace isn’t necessarily a response to sin, but rather something much greater. Grace was what allows “Jesus to produce through us what’s needed in the moment.” Grace is the opposite of guilt. Grace doesn’t leave room for guilt, or inadequacy, nor is it merely nothing more than mercy. Grace is the Holy Spirit inside of us. Grace is the New Covenant. Grace “deactivates our pride and when we remove the law from our lives, our self-effort is no longer prodded to control behaviour.”

Farley ends Part 3 with a section that is meant to give us a sense of comfort; that it is okay to feel shaken and uneasy by all of these new ideas he is putting forth. But also don’t feel like just because you’ve read it, that it makes it true. He reminds us to keep an open, yet critical, mind as you read, and keep an open dialogue with God through prayer; allow Him to speak to you as you read and grow. There are some amazing ideas in here, but I don’t think we should adopt them just because they are a cool new thing. Try them on for size, see how they fit, but don’t just accept them outright because someone wrote them in a book. Growth is a very important part of Christian life, and Farley puts forth some great ideas to get the brain thinking.

Now, despite my reservations about some of the idea’s Farley puts forth, I’m loving this book and would recommend it to all Christians. It is something that needs to be read with an open mind, and if you don’t agree with everything, that’s fine, but just opening your mind to the possibility can bring so much growth. It will expose your weaknesses so that you may better explore them, and help to strengthen your beliefs.

 

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About the author:

christopher-neufeldBy day, Christopher Neufeld can be found keeping the computers and networks running smoothly for a local school division in Winnipeg, MB. By weekend, he can be found at Central Baptist laying down some funky low-end grooves in the house band. He’s blessed with a beautiful wife, and together they are expecting a baby boy in October. Through this all he wishes he was (and one day will be) a pastor. He can be found writing at http://twistedchristian.ca and on twitter at twitter.com/twistedxtian.

15 Comments

  1. andrewfarley

    The Law is an all or nothing proposition. James says if you keep the whole law and stumble in just one point, you are guilty of all of it. So picking 99% or 1% of the Law is not a Biblical option for Christians. Paul said that if you get circumcised (a symbol of Law-keeping), Christ will be “of no benefit to you.” Law is an all or nothing proposition.

    Gentiles were never offered the Law. It was never our privilege. Today, we Gentiles are offered only one Covenant – the New. The Old was never ours to begin with.

    If we say we need the Law to define sin and morality, the Law defines it 600 ways. Eating pork is sin. Eating shellfish is sin. Saturday yardwork is sin – and that's one of the Big Ten. So then, we just pick a few that we “like” as morality? Then we're dicing up God's law and essentially calling the shots like the God of the Universe.

    The answer is love God, love others. In these two, we won't murder, commit adultery etc. There are only two laws written on Christians hearts and we have tons of New Testament behavior verses to show us how it all plays out.

    Regarding Jesus' teaching, obviously the Vine and Branches, the coming Holy Spirit, etc. speaks of the New Covenant to come. But “cut off your hand”, “pluck out your eye”, “sell everything” and “be perfect just like God” had a different purpose. The rich man went away sad. The Pharisees went away mad. Mission accomplished. Jesus showed the futility of life under Law.

    A Christian's freedom from the Law is not a new teaching. If any teaching is new, it should be disregarded. But our freedom from Law is plastered all over the epistles- we are dead to the Law, we are free from the Law, we are not under the Law, we are not supervised by the Law – these are all New Testament quotes. The idea that we (especially as Gentiles) should return to any portion of the Jewish Law as our guide for daily living is an absurdity. And it's an insult to the indwelling Christ. Two thousand years ago, Paul said “You foolish Galatians” because they were considering Law in their daily lives. Today, he'd call us “You foolish Americans!”

    Jesus plus nothing.

    Andrew Farley

    Reply
  2. BibleDude

    This is a great perspective on OT Law… I think what I see is people holding onto some of the OT Laws (particularly the moral ones as opposed to the ritual ones) as almost a security blanket. I think that part of the fear is if we don't have some sort of moral structure, then we would have chaos.

    But I don't believe that is the case. I'm glad that you pointed out the idea that if there is any sort of NT 'Law' then it would be 'love God, love others'. I believe that is what God's heart is, and that is what the Holy Spirit inside of us encourages us to do.

    I also know that we need to be very careful not to get into a performance mentality where we say to ourselves… “I spent an hour in the Word today… love God, check. I hello to someone in the hallway at work today… love others, check.” That is a dangerous place to be when we start trying to measure our holiness like that!

    I appreciate you dropping by Andrew! It's always great to see the author of the book jumping into a discussion like this!

    Reply
  3. twistedxtian

    Thanks for the comment Andrew. It is too often that we read a book and are left with questions with no one to answer them. So it's pretty awesome to be able to read such a thought, and question, provoking book and get clarification from the one who wrote it. 🙂

    Okay, I think I get where you are going. You are saying that while we aren't to follow the OT Law, by following the Holy Spirit's guidance we will live good lives that will inevitably overlap OT Law, but as OT Law is essentially irrelevant, it doesn't matter. It is now “love God, love others” and the resulting action is what is important. So there is no picking and choosing of laws, it is living a totally seperate 'law' that happens to crossover Old Law.

    Reply
  4. andrewfarley

    Absolutely. And the “carryover” is God's character – love, patience, kindness, etc.

    Same God. Different covenant. And different covenant means a different “method” altogether – “those who are led by the Spirit are not under Law.”

    Enjoying your posts. Thanks to all!

    Andrew Farley

    Reply
  5. glennthomas

    Andrew said, “The answer is love God, love others. In these two, we won't murder, commit adultery etc. There are only two laws written on Christians hearts and we have tons of New Testament behavior verses to show us how it all plays out.” Does the Old Testament tells us anything, anywhere on how these two laws work out? Can we look to Old Testament law for moral instruction on marriage to close relatives (brother-sister, etc.), involvement with the occult, abortion, etc? Do we believe God's Spirit will move us to follow his decrees and keep his laws – Ezekiel 36:27? Can we like Paul, delight in our inner being with God's law – Romans 7:22? Can we meditate on God's law day and night – Psalm 1? Andrew, I'm keeping an open mind, but it seems the New Testament and the bible as a whole seem to make both negative and positive statements about the law. To state that Christians have no relationship to the law seems to go beyond what both the bible and much of biblical scholarship seem to say (see Markus Bockmuehl – Jewish Law in Gentile Churches).

    Reply
  6. andrewfarley

    Hi Glenn,

    A great six-part question. I'm excited to respond and thanks for your open mind!

    1. Does the Old Testament tell us anything, anywhere, on how these two laws of love work out?

    Sure, the Old Testament is full of history. And, of course, throughout history we find lots of people loving God and lots of people loving others. So, of course, the Old Testament has tons of examples of love. I would hope nobody denies that. 😉

    2. Can we look to Old Testament law for moral instruction on marriage to close relatives (brother-sister)? involvement with the occult? abortion?

    I've never met a Christian that wanted to marry their brother or sister, but maybe it's a more widespread problem than I realize. Also, I'm not too sure there are many Christians that think they should worship the Devil. And if you believe abortion is murder, well, I haven't met a Christian yet that condones murder. Maybe we Christians aren't as clueless as we think we are.

    However, the New Testament lists the deeds of the flesh. One of them is idolatry. Another is sorcery. That takes care of the occult. Corinthians discusses improper sexual relationships with a relative. I guess that covers that, if we really were wondering.

    But the same Old Testament verses in the Law would also tell our wives to stay at home isolated in the house once a month. So where would you draw the line then? See that's what I mean.

    Maybe the Holy Spirit and the New Testament verses are enough to guide our daily living. Maybe we should look back on the Old Testament and learn a LOT from it, but not live under the Law.

    3. Do we believe God's Spirit will move us to follow his decrees and keep his laws (Ezekiel 36:27)?

    Yes, but what are his laws here? What does “laws” mean? Does the Spirit move you to refrain from pork? Does the Spirit move you to avoid Saturday yard work? See, the writer of Hebrews purposely changes an Old Testament quote with the word “law” to use the word “laws” instead. Jesus' laws are two – love God, love others. The Apostle John picks up on these as well in 1 John and says “his commands are not burdensome” and defines his commands as “love God and love one another.” (1 John 4)

    4. Can we, like Paul, delight in our inner being with God's law- Romans 7:22?

    We can certainly try to delight in God's law, just like Paul did at one time. But read the whole chapter and what you find is a man *struggling* under the Law and the result is “coveting of every kind.” He found that sin was rampant in his life when he was under law as a devout Jew. He delighted in it, but couldn't keep it. Is that the experience we want? That's what we'll get under law.

    5. Can we meditate on God's law day and night – Psalm 1?

    We can, if we want the same relationship with God that David had. But David begged God, “Please don't take your Holy Spirit from me!” That's Old Covenant talk. David was under Law. I can meditate on anything I want. But why would I meditate on the Law when the New Testament informs me:

    *I'm dead to law.
    *I'm not under law.
    *I'm free from law.
    *I'm not supervised by law.
    *I serve in the newness of the Spirit.
    *I don't serve in the old way of the letter.
    *The Old Covenant is weak and useless.
    *The Old Covenant is obsolete.
    *The Ten Commandments on stone minister death and condemnation (2 Cor)

    …Those are all quotes from Scripture revealing a radical truth that I need to recognize on this side of the cross.

    The bottom line is that Jesus is enough, not just for heaven, but for daily living. And, with Him living in me, daily living doesn't require 600 things on a checklist.

    We are delivered from the entirety of the law so that we serve in a brand new way. To return to the Old (especially for a Gentile who was never given the Old) is an absolute absurdity.

    6. What about what biblical scholarship says?

    So called “biblical scholarship” says whatever you want it to say. If you've got a position, you can find a scholar to support it. So, don't put any confidence in that. The truth should be so simple a child can understand it. And the truth should set you free.

    It is so disgusting today to find so many Christians believing that they must be spoon fed the word of God by elite scholars. The early church was rocked by fishermen of no particular education. Jesus says we come to him like little children. Here is the simple theology taught by the New Testament:

    1) our sins are all gone – forgotten.
    2) our old self is all gone – we are new.
    3) our relationship to the Law is all gone – we have the indwelling Jesus Christ.
    4) the Old Covenant is all gone – it's obsolete and we enjoy the New.

    Well, thanks again! If you haven't read The Naked Gospel yet, check it out. It may answer some of the things you have lingering in your mind about these issues.

    In Him,
    Andrew Farley

    Reply
  7. Greg Glatz

    Really appreciated the message of this chapter and Chris' summary of it. “Grace is the opposite of guilt” – love it!

    Reply
  8. glennthomas

    Andrew – thanks for the response. I did purchase your book and am currently reading through it. Perhaps I will come to a different conclusion when I am done. To respond to a couple of your points –
    “Corinthians discusses improper sexual relationships with a relative. I guess that covers that, if we really were wondering”. It seems as if the OT Law informs Paul's view here in Corinthians and elsewhere. The New Testament says zero on many moral commands found in the Old. Could it be that the New Testament is not comprehensive but assumes universal moral commands in the Old still provide instruction? If I did want to marry my sister – there is no New Testament command not to do so. In fact I have seen a soom argue just that point, if legal – we could not say it is immoral based on the New Testament. (See Steve Lehrer's book, New Covenant Theology)
    Exodus 21 makes a clear case against abortion. Surely this passage provides moral guidance/instruction for the Christian today.
    Yet you argue that the Law is only for unbelievers in revealing God's standard and moral perfection. But if true then the law would serve this purpose for all people, both redeemed and the unredeemed and thereby have an instructive purpose for the believer. Anyway, great blog and good responses!

    Reply
  9. andrewfarley

    FOOD FOR THOUGHT: 1 Timothy 1:5-11 sheds light on whom the Law is for, and whom it is *not* for:

    “But THE GOAL OF OUR INSTRUCTION IS LOVE from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

    For some men, STRAYING from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, WANTING TO BE TEACHERS OF THE LAW, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

    But we know that the Law is good, IF ONE USES IT LAWFULLY, realizing the fact that **LAW IS NOT MADE FOR A RIGHTEOUS PERSON**, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”

    1 Timothy 1:5-11

    Reply
  10. glennthomas

    I'm Ok with saying **LAW IS NOT MADE FOR A RIGHTEOUS PERSON**, if we understand Paul is talking about aspects of the law concerning punishment, condemnation, sinfulness and guilt. In regards to the law in general Paul did not want people to believe the Gentiles should adopt Jewish identity and culture (which parts of the law dealt with), that the law secures salvation, that interpretations of the law carried the same weight as God's authority, that we could use the law to boast, or that we should develop a legalistic system, etc. But Paul also believed that, “DO WE, THEN, NULLIFY THE LAW BY THE FAITH? NOT AT ALL, RATHER WE UPHOLD THE LAW” – Romans 3:31. He also said, “KEEPING GOD'S COMMANDS IS WHAT COUNTS (1Corinthians 7:19) and 'The commandments, “do not committ adultery”, “do not murder”, “do not steal”, “do not covet”, and whatever commandments there may be may be summed up in this one rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Love does no harm to its neighbor. THEREFORE LOVE IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW' – Romans 13:8-10. This seems more balanced than simply saying we have no relationship to the law and the law is irrelevant!

    Reply
  11. andrewfarley

    Great thoughts here…

    1. The word “uphold” there doesn't mean “obey” or “adhere to.” If it did mean that, we'd have 600 things to uphold! Instead, it simply means “hold up in high regard; to esteem.” We do esteem the Law – it's holy, righteous, and good. We're just not under it. (Romans 8; Galatians 3)

    2. Regarding 1 Corinthians 7:19 where it says “Keeping God's commands is what counts” … What commands does he mean here? The commands in the Law? Which ones? OK, not the dietary laws? Not the sacrificial regulations? OK, the Ten Commandments. OK, wait, not the Sabbath? OK, the Nine Commandments?

    Or maybe he means some other type of New Testaments commands from God – God's commandments. All I have to do is back up nine verses and verse 10 in the same chapter gives us an example: Paul has a command from the Lord.

    1 John 4 also clearly tell us “His commandments are not burdensome” and that His commands are “love God” and “love others.” Note that the Law with its 600+ commandments is quite burdensome and it's a “ministry of condemnation” and a “ministry that kills.” (1 Corinthians teaches us that!)

    The context in 1 Corinthians is “love your wife” and “don't divorce her” or “if you do, don't remarry and get back together with her if you can.”
    Love is the fulfillment of the law. Our focus is love.

    Imagine if by using the word “commands,” Paul and John actually meant the Law of Moses! Which ones would *you* choose? And that'd knock out Friday night blog posts too! 😉

    A great discussion!

    Andrew

    Reply
  12. derek4messiah

    Andrew:

    For whatever its worth, there are other ways of balancing old and new. The way you are proposing is like saying, “God gave laws that were bad and burdensome.” The hardest Old Testament law is loving God and the second hardest is loving neighbor. There is nothing new about these.

    Those of us in Messianic Judaism who understand the Law as it was given know that non-Jews were never expected to keep Sabbath or circumcision and so Acts 15 and Galatians are no surprise. But there is nothing legalistic about Jews in Messiah keeping Sabbath or even non-Jews who wish to attach themselves to Israel doing so.

    Derek Leman
    derek4messiah dot wordpress dot com

    Reply
  13. glennthomas

    I'm Ok with saying **LAW IS NOT MADE FOR A RIGHTEOUS PERSON**, if we understand Paul is talking about aspects of the law concerning punishment, condemnation, sinfulness and guilt. In regards to the law in general Paul did not want people to believe the Gentiles should adopt Jewish identity and culture (which parts of the law dealt with), that the law secures salvation, that interpretations of the law carried the same weight as God's authority, that we could use the law to boast, or that we should develop a legalistic system, etc. But Paul also believed that, “DO WE, THEN, NULLIFY THE LAW BY THE FAITH? NOT AT ALL, RATHER WE UPHOLD THE LAW” – Romans 3:31. He also said, “KEEPING GOD'S COMMANDS IS WHAT COUNTS (1Corinthians 7:19) and 'The commandments, “do not committ adultery”, “do not murder”, “do not steal”, “do not covet”, and whatever commandments there may be may be summed up in this one rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Love does no harm to its neighbor. THEREFORE LOVE IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW' – Romans 13:8-10. This seems more balanced than simply saying we have no relationship to the law and the law is irrelevant!

    Reply
  14. andrewfarley

    Great thoughts here…

    1. The word “uphold” there doesn't mean “obey” or “adhere to.” If it did mean that, we'd have 600 things to uphold! Instead, it simply means “hold up in high regard; to esteem.” We do esteem the Law – it's holy, righteous, and good. We're just not under it. (Romans 8; Galatians 3)

    2. Regarding 1 Corinthians 7:19 where it says “Keeping God's commands is what counts” … What commands does he mean here? The commands in the Law? Which ones? OK, not the dietary laws? Not the sacrificial regulations? OK, the Ten Commandments. OK, wait, not the Sabbath? OK, the Nine Commandments?

    Or maybe he means some other type of New Testaments commands from God – God's commandments. All I have to do is back up nine verses and verse 10 in the same chapter gives us an example: Paul has a command from the Lord.

    1 John 4 also clearly tell us “His commandments are not burdensome” and that His commands are “love God” and “love others.” Note that the Law with its 600+ commandments is quite burdensome and it's a “ministry of condemnation” and a “ministry that kills.” (1 Corinthians teaches us that!)

    The context in 1 Corinthians is “love your wife” and “don't divorce her” or “if you do, don't remarry and get back together with her if you can.”
    Love is the fulfillment of the law. Our focus is love.

    Imagine if by using the word “commands,” Paul and John actually meant the Law of Moses! Which ones would *you* choose? And that'd knock out Friday night blog posts too! 😉

    A great discussion!

    Andrew

    Reply
  15. derek4messiah

    Andrew:

    For whatever its worth, there are other ways of balancing old and new. The way you are proposing is like saying, “God gave laws that were bad and burdensome.” The hardest Old Testament law is loving God and the second hardest is loving neighbor. There is nothing new about these.

    Those of us in Messianic Judaism who understand the Law as it was given know that non-Jews were never expected to keep Sabbath or circumcision and so Acts 15 and Galatians are no surprise. But there is nothing legalistic about Jews in Messiah keeping Sabbath or even non-Jews who wish to attach themselves to Israel doing so.

    Derek Leman
    derek4messiah dot wordpress dot com

    Reply

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[the naked gospel] part 3: crossing the line

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