Friday, August 31, 2007

The Shadow

There was a radio program that came on in the 1930’s and 40’s called, “The Shadow.” During the introduction to each show the announcer said the following phrase, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" Radio serial characters aside, shadows don’t know much. Shadows do have the ability to describe certain external features of the objects that cast them such as the general shape. It is usually easy to determine what, in a general sense, cast a shadow. For example, it is easy to determine that it was a house that cast a particular shadow.

But what about the internal features of the house? Here is where the shadow provides very little information. The shadow cannot tell you the color of the carpet in the foyer or how many bedrooms there are. No matter how closely you examine the shadow, it will provide you with very little information about the internal workings and depths of the object that cast it. The Word of God calls the Law a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, but not the good things themselves.

The old system under the Law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. (Hebrews 10:1 NLT)

So what is the good thing to come?

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:16-17

So many spend all of their time focused on the shadow called the Law and pay little mind to the One who cast it. It is like spending all of your time looking at a portrait or reading a biography, when the subject of the portrait or biography is right there in the room. The Jews in Jesus’ day studied and memorized the scriptures in an attempt to be right with God, but what did Jesus say to them,

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)

I think that we are, for the lack of a better word, defined by our focus. It’s what sets us apart from everyone else. It seems that we religious types are always latching on to something, some special piece of knowledge that sets us apart from those unwashed heathens down the road. Things like baptismal regeneration, keeping the Sabbath, tongues as evidence of salvation, predestination, etc. And since that is our focus, it is pretty much all you hear us talk about.

What about Jesus? Are we willing to come to Him so that we may have life; not just for salvation, but are we willing for Him to be our life? Are we willing to take our focus off learning about Him, and focus on learning from Him? I think this is what Paul was talking about when he wrote,

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)


We spend much time trying to persuade others of the superiority of our revelation and the wisdom in our understanding. We become so arrogantly convinced of the “rightness” of our position that we label those who disagree as false teachers or heretics. Heavenly Father save us from being like Martha; from being so intent on what our sister Mary is doing or not doing, that we miss the blessing of choosing the better part, which will never be taken away from us. Let nothing, not knowledge, nor doctrines, nor pride, distract us from the simplicity that is devotion to Christ Jesus.

10 comments:

Howard said...

Excellent point about the law as a mere shadow, Gary - and of course, that was the Mosaic law, not all the unwarranted qualifications we seek to include as required for righteousness in our contemporary, dualistic spirituality. Colossians chapter 2 needs to be 'nailed up' afresh on every church door and, better yet, in the depths of our minds and hearts.

Judah Himango said...

Interesting, Gary.

Being someone who does keep the commandments as Yeshua the Messiah told us to (Matt 5), I often disagree with people who try to slam the Law by saying it is abolished. I don't think you are saying that Gary, however, it comes across as downplaying the importance of God's holy and righteous commandments.

You are right that the Law is a shadow of things to come. For example, the Temple and the Tabernacle were both pictures -- shadows -- of the real things in heaven. This is why God had us build the the Tabernacle and Temple to very specific, careful instruction, exactly what was shown to Moses on the mountain.

The part I think most Christians get wrong is the thinking that the Torah is abolished or has no purpose. This, despite Messiah himself saying the Law isn't abolished and should be kept, in addition to Paul saying the Law has a very real purpose: to define sin.

Moreover, 1 John tells us we know we love him if we keep his commandments. And I dare say, Yeshua's commandments do not differ from the Father's.

Christian's often look at Paul's slamming of the false teaching of the Galatians -- that one must follow the Law to be saved -- and then Christians will take this to mean the Law is bad and should be abolished. In reality, though, Paul says the Law has a perfectly legitimate function -- to define sin -- and Paul himself kept the Torah. For example, Acts tells us he kept the Feasts of the Lord, he took a Nazirite vow according to Torah, he circumcised Timothy. The only time he seemed to go against the Law was when he refused to circumcise Titus, but that was in response to those saying you had to be circumcised to be saved.

Christian's also often look at Messiah's slamming of the Pharisees as a knock against the Torah. But in reality, Jesus did this because they were missing the "weightier matters of the Law": justice and mercy". Messiah called them "white-washed tombs": looking like righteous people on the outside, but having no real righteousness on the inside.

This is why it was prophesied of our Messiah in Jeremiah 31:

"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time," declares the LORD.
"I will put my Law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people."


Indeed, Messiah simply turned the Torah inward: yes, adultery still exists as defined in the Torah, but Messiah said even if you look on a woman with lust, you're committing adultery in your heart.

Therefore, Messiah not only upheld Torah, he strengthened it by focusing it inward, to the heart and mind, just as Jeremiah prophesied.

You may say I'm neglecting Messiah in order to promote Torah. That's not it at all. On the contrary, I follow Torah because Messiah himself did. Messiah has been exiled in Rome for so long, we've lost the knowledge that he is the Jewish Messiah, the restorer and gatherer of Israel, son of David, the only person to keep the Torah perfectly, for He did not sin.

That is why I argue for keeping God's commandments in the Law: anything less is Lawlessness. In 1 John, in Revelation, in James, in the gospels, the ones who overcome in the end are the ones who hold fast to Messiah and the God's commandments. I'm reminded of Revelation 12: "Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Yeshua."

Gary Kirkham said...

Judah,

Thanks for dropping by. While the original post might seem to be directed to you, I would like to say that it is and that it isn’t. It is directed toward those, including myself, who get so caught up in debating a position that they forget about Christ. My goal has always been to proclaim what I understand about the grace of God. Yours has been to proclaim your understanding of the Law. I am pretty sure that we both feel like we are on solid footing doctrinally. These sorts of discussions go around and around and never seem to go anywhere.

I guess that it is about acceptance. Do we let doctrines stand between us? Do we reject a man as a brother who came to Christ by faith because he wasn’t baptized in our water using our words? Is that what Jesus had in mind for His children? I am not saying that we shouldn’t expose error, but I don’t think that we always go about it in the right way. We are one in Christ. Look what it says in Colossians,

there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Colossians 3:11-15

In Christ,
Gary

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Nice post Gary. You know when it comes to Law versus Grace people kind of treat it as a rocket science as though the it's a very complicated theological matter. But the reality is , a single statement in the scripture tells everything - "the power of sin is in the law." To me this is simple and plain. Does that mean God's law was bad. Never. the problem is with us. We can't and never will be able to fulfill the law. Thats is the reason Jesus had to fulfill it for us.

13By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. - Heb 8

We are not under shadow now, we are under the real thing. The shadow has been made obsolete. It is like - once we have the real building, do we need the model?

Gary Kirkham said...

Bino,

Thanks for the comments. You are right, the grace of God is simple and it is this simplicity that causes people not to accept it. "Surely there is more to it than that," you can hear them say.

We are under a new covenant as you referenced in Hebrews and the old one is obsolete. I think there is confusion in some people’s minds about when the new covenant began. Hebrews 9 clearly tells us that the new covenant began at the death of Jesus.

For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. Hebrews 9:15-16

This is important because if you don't know when the new covenant began then you have a hard time reconciling what Jesus said before His death with the writings of the Apostles after His death. For example, how do you reconcile

But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Matthew 6:15

with

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

The only way to reconcile them is to realize that they represent two different sides of the cross. Jesus lived and taught under the Law, but with a view to the good things to come. He has made us ministers of a new covenant. I like the way the New Living Translation puts it,

He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6

I would rather be a minister of Life than a minister of death and condemnation.

In Christ,
Gary

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Amen!

Judah Himango said...

Gary, suppose for a moment that the New Covenant began at Jesus' death. (That is debatable, but let's just suppose for a moment.)

Even if the New Covenant started right then, it doesn't invalidate Jesus' clear words in Matthew 5, does it?

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

20For 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. (Mathew 5)

Apostle was a Pharisee... This is what he has to say about this:

4though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.(Philippians 3)

Praise God!

Daelon said...

If people won't accept the good news, then give them the law that they want.

Judah Himango said...

Wow, daelon, that's some harsh words.

I accept the Good News of Messiah, which is this: that even though I deserve death (as prescribed by Torah), I can have life because of Messiah's Torah-fulfilling sacrifice.

So I embrace the Good News of Messiah. I also hold fast to God's commandments.

"Leave me to Law" -- as if that's some horrible thing to be left to God's commandments. I'm sorry to hear such condemnation and judgment coming from folks who say, "Grace! Grace!" so often.

Bino, we are made righteous by the Law only if we keep it, which we cannot. (That is not to say we freely trample God's commandments!) We can have righteousness through Messiah. So I wholeheartedly agree with Paul.

But I think you disagree with Messiah given he said we should both follow and teach others to follow *all* the Torah.

To explain this away, I suspect you'll conjure up an airy, non-literal interpretation of the Messiah's succinct instructions in Matthew, so that it no longer contradicts your Hellenized western theology.