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Morals and the Bible  

Temporary and permanent laws


Apparently, there is uncertainty about temporary and permanent laws in the Bible. Example: If stoning for adultery has been abolished, why not also condemnation for homosexual acts? If women don't have to cover their heads any more, why not throw off all the clothes?

The distinction between temporary and permanent laws in the Bible may seem foolish to unbelievers (1 Cor. 2:14), but Christians know that apparent contradictions in scripture are reconciled by simple principles, such as practical needs, symbolic rituals, progressive revelation, wide angle, and messianic focus.

Practicality: Godís laws on purity (re food, disease, death, fat, and blood) protected Godís people at a time when science was still in the dark about germs and physiology. Laws and customs concerning clothes and gender were dictated by decency rules of time and place. Every culture must translate these rules for their own time.

Symbolism: Godís laws on worship (re sanctuary, sacrifices, priests, and feasts) symbolized the reconciliation that would be accomplished by the Messiah. When he had come the symbols pointing to him were fulfilled and stopped. However, Christians donít discard that part of scripture. We are still enriched by the poignant symbolism.

Progression: The supreme Teacher knew he had to reveal truth gradually to his childrenójust as children are step-by-step exposed to facts from grade 1 to 12. The promise that Godís grace would go via Abraham to the Gentiles was given in Genesis 12, expanded in the Old Testament (Ps. 2:7-8, 22:27, Is. 9:1-2, 49:6), and fulfilled on Pentecost (Acts 1:8). Likewise, the seeds for human rights (including those of women and slaves) had been planted by the Old and New Testament, but it took humanity many centuries before they put the principle into practice. [Israel's exodus from Egypt was God's powerful statement about slavery, symbolizing our liberation from sin. The achievements of believing women adorn the pages of the Old and New Testaments, confirming women's vital role in God's kingdom].

Perspective: Parts of scripture must be placed within the big picture. Context, other passages, original circumstances, and language help us get to the truth. This avoids misusing of texts by pulling them out of their literary and historical context.

Christ: The arguments above show that Christians worship a Person, not a set of rules. Those who know Jesus as their personal Savior understand and use these principles of Bible interpretation. However, Godís permanent moral laws are not altered by these temporary laws. Sexual morality is part of God's moral law and is reiterated in the New Testament (Rom. 1, Gal. 5). All morals on all terrains are tested by both parts of the Great Commandment. Human rights use only the second part. Current western morals grew from Christian roots. A tree severed from its roots dies.

Purposes of God's Law: (a) God's law shows God's will, (b) drives us to the Savior because we can't keep God's Law perfectly, (c) shows us how to thank God for the gift of salvation.