“Why do Christians ‘pick and choose’ which Biblical laws to follow?”

1273151_84403885 stock.xchng ba1969I’ve seen that question asked so many times on the internet, and it surprises me that more people don’t know the answer.  But then again, I always have to check my surprise because, really, the answer isn’t taught much in churches, it seems.  I had always gone to Bible teaching churches, and the subject just doesn’t come up much (or at least it didn’t in the past).  Maybe, in a way, it just seems too obvious to pastors, but then why do people keep asking?  One law that will get a sermon now and then, since it specifically relates to non-Jews, is whether keeping the “Sabbath” “holy” is still required (this is from one of the Ten Commandments), but that specific subject is for a future post.

So what is the answer?  As so many ask, why don’t we stone homosexuals anymore?  Implying, I guess, that since we no longer stone them, then we should no longer think their actions sin anymore either.  Of course, the one action or lack thereof (capital punishment) doesn’t change what God thinks of the crime (homosexual acts); what has changed between the Old and New Testaments was the timing of judgement.  A major part of the Old Testament covers the time of the Jews, the history of the nation of Israel.  God made the nation of Israel to be a human group that was governed by God’s laws, and His specific revelations would come through Israel during that time.  They were an example that the pagan nations around them could see, and for future peoples to learn from.

But we – Christians –  are not the nation of Israel and so we don’t mete out punishments to people that sin against God.  We are to convey God’s plan of redemption to all peoples.  God’s plan is redemption, it isn’t punishment, per se.  His focus, as it was at the beginning and as it will be in the future, is for humans to have a wonderful life in fellowship with Him.  God is extending His hand to all who will accept Him during this church era, and is reserving judgement until later.  Sin is still sin.  Just because God doesn’t zap people from heaven when they sin doesn’t mean He doesn’t see it or that He has changed His mind about it.  Consider these quotes from two of the sources provided below:

The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament.  Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us.  In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live.  The moral law is an outline of God’s own character–his integrity, love, and faithfulness. . . .   The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethic of the Old Testament is re-stated throughout the New Testament (Craig).

If we are to understand the application of the Law to ourselves, we must understand its purpose.  The law was never intended to be a permanent and full revelation of God’s mind to man but was given for the express purpose of preparing the way for Christ (Galatians 3:23-25).  Furthermore, the law given through Moses was never intended for any people except the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 5:1-3; 6:6-7).  Thus, with the death of Christ upon the cross, this impermanent law, the Old Testament, was taken away (Colossians 2:13-17).  Now instead, God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.”  (Hebrews 1:2; cf. Matthew 17:1-5)  One who goes back to the Old Testament and tries to be justified by it has “become estranged from Christ” (Galatians 5:4) (Sharp).

So, in response to  the original question, we don’t “pick and choose” which laws to follow, since those laws aren’t for us to enforce.  We do, however, acknowledge as sin what God tells us is sin, and we convey it to others since “the Good News” is that Jesus died for our sins.  If there was nothing for Him to die for, then obviously He died for nothing.  If people don’t or won’t recognize their sin, then they will not see why Jesus had to die for them.  So, if you don’t know what sins are or don’t think that you’ve sinned, why would you think Jesus relevant?  The gospel would be pointless.

If homosexual sins, or any other sins, are said to be forgiven and thus accepted by God, it makes a mockery of the whole actions of Christ.  Christ said to the adulteress, “go and sin no more.”  We are to strive to live sin free; to continue to live a life of sin, purposefully, is to deny Christ’s work.  It’s like saying I can go out and murder, and the whole time Christ is at my side smiling, knowing He’s got me covered.  Yes, we all sin, but the point is to recognize sin and repent of any sinful actions, so that we can have relationship with God; God will forgive the repentant, but to be unrepentant means to be unforgiven.

For a more detailed presentation of the subject, please read one or more of the sources listed below.

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Sources/For Further Reading:

Craig, David.  Dr. Tim Keller on The Bible and Homosexuality – What’s the Big Deal?

Dorsey, David A.  “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise,” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (34:3/Sept. 1991).

Sharp, Keith.  Understanding the Law.

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Image from ba1969 at stock.xchng, “Bible Collage 2.”

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13 thoughts on ““Why do Christians ‘pick and choose’ which Biblical laws to follow?””

  1. Nice post. The picking and choosing question is one that I’ve heard some express, but they’re concern had more to do with which passages in the Bible are deemed relevant and which ones are ignored (because they are inconsistent with church dogma). Perhaps, you have an opinion on that.

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    1. Thanks for commenting! All scripture is useful, though you have to know what you applies to you, and what actions you can or should take. For the Christian, the entire NT is applicable, though small parts of it are not only hard to understand, but contested (I mean seriously contested). So none is ignored, but as with what the article is talking about, some is not applicable in the same as it was in during the time of Israel. If you could be more specific, maybe I could say more. But when I hear that “ignore” thing, it just goes to show that God’s intention for scripture isn’t being understood.

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  2. you have not explained why you think Lev 20 is a moral law, and not planting two crops together is not. I think my question for you would not be why you pick and choose Biblical laws, but why you pick one to emphasise over another. You preach here against homosexuality. It is a Sin!!! you proclaim, loudly. Why?

    What active gay people are in your church?

    Now, is there anyone in your church who has left a former partner and taken up with another? Jesus says in Mark there should be no divorce, and this is adultery. And yet your blog has no reference to that sin, but for the brief glancing reference to a woman about to be stoned whom, John quotes Jesus as saying “Neither do I condemn you”.

    What you are doing is proclaiming your sibboleth. You deny my Christianity because I disagree with you about homosexuality. Your creed is “I believe in one God, who condemns homosexuals, maker of Heaven and Earth.”

    Many theologians will tell you that the Bible is being misinterpreted if people condemn loving gay long term relationships, rather than, say, the use of enslaved rent-boys. Go and read them with an open mind, rather than with your hatred and visceral disgust for gay people and gay lovemaking and your mind made up to prevent you hearing God’s word. If you have ears, then hear.

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    1. What you’re asking for is a much longer article. If you want to criticize, like with a movie or anything else, you need to take the thing your criticizing for what it is. This is a short piece on the subject, and I referred the reader to three different articles if they wanted to know more. Two of them are easily available online and you could’ve read those to answer some of your questions. Please do. I do in fact address adultery, if you read carefully. Moral law is not ceremonial law, to address another of your concerns. Much of what you address is covered in the NT and a reading of that shows what is made clean and what is clarified regarding the laws; homosexuality (and all sexual sin) is condemned in the NT.

      Regarding the adulteress woman, don’t pick and choose your verses or parts of verses either, LOL. Jesus said that, then told her to not sin anymore. It’s that way for all of us. We sin, we repent, and the expectation is for us to try and not sin anymore. Read other, more detailed, treatments on the subject with an open mind yourself. As i said, and as it is very clear in the Bible, Jesus came to save us from our sins – not so that we could keep on sinning and get away with it, but so that we would grow in holiness and be holy. And you don’t need to preach at me, I’ve been a huge sinner and have contended with God myself regarding my sin. It always comes back to, am I going to listen to God and go by what He says, or by what man says? Sometimes, it seems impossible to go by what God says . . . but it’s the contrite heart that God does not despise. It’s the rebellious one that’s always been the problem. Don’t come back with a disrespectful comment or it will be deleted. If you yourself want to try and make sense of the overall meaning of God’s redemption and talk about it respectfully, fine, but that doesn’t seem to be what you want.

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      1. With all conceivable respect, you mention adultery, but do not preach against it.

        You seem only to want to hear from people who agree with you. That is absolutely fine. I seek to create dialogue within Christianity.

        Both of us quoted part of Jesus’ saying, and omitted the other part- though why should I quote it to you when you are clearly aware of it- and you accuse me of picking and choosing.

        I note that you did not answer my questions. Do you have active gay people in your church? Do you have people who have left their original partners?

        I pray for your good, but chiefly I pray that you do not hurt any gay people who come across what you preach. We hurt enough already.

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        1. I’m sorry, but you really do twist things around. Of course adultery is wrong . . . why wouldn’t it be? It goes without saying, but I already said all sexual sin is included. The reason why homosexuality is brought up in a more specific manner is because it is the gay community that has brought this issue up. Adulterers are not doing the same and they are not clamoring to have their sin made into acceptable behavior. You find a way to cut down that has no bearing.

          I don’t have to answer all of your questions (why should you expect me to?) – go read the other articles. Another way for you to cut down, with demands that somehow I have to meet for you.

          I have nothing against gays. I have no idea how many are in my church. I have a niece that I love who is gay and has a wife. But she wasn’t always gay and has three kids. I can understand why she has chosen her path. And I’m not even trying to argue that people aren’t born gay. That whole thing could take a long article or book. But I know that people are born with all kinds of things that make their lives hard.

          I don’t want to hear only from who I want to hear from. I want to know the truth, and I have hoped to see a way to say that God accepts homosexual acts. Read the NT (one that isn’t altered). Both Jesus and Paul said the best thing was to not to have sex at all, but devote yourself to God and His kingdom. Instead, people keep arguing about how much they can get away with, instead of how much they can give and sacrifice to God. One thing I don’t buy, really, is having to have a gay relationship, period. Most gays can and do have heterosexual relationships. It might not be the most satisfying to them, but it is what God calls us to do. People naturally want to have adulterous relationships, for the most part, but God calls us not to. Our minds and hearts need to be changed and renewed by the Holy Spirit. People seem to leave Him out of the picture.

          These former gays confirm both God’s will and His love:

          http://www.christopheryuan.com/main/index.html

          http://www.facebook.com/lmo2301?ref=ts&fref=ts

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          1. OK, I will try again.

            In Mark 10, Jesus says that if a man leaves his wife and takes another, he commits adultery. Now, half marriages end in divorce, and divorcees remarry, and a lot of those remarried folks go to church. Homosexuality is not the “sin” forced on society, as there is a huge backlash against it, of which you are part. Adultery is the sin forced on society, it is accepted with hardly a murmur. So, “One Million Moms” object to Ellen DeGeneres advertising for JC Penney because she is lesbian, but do not object to adulterers appearing in adverts.

            This is not an attack. I am just trying to get through to you, and demonstrate that something you have said in your post is not true. I believe that “Christian” condemnation of gay people comes from hatred and disgust rather than any real attempt to understand the value or meaning of scripture- you disagree-

            but I think that those Evangelical churches which condemn gay people are doing very little, in comparison, about adulterers, and I think you would deny this if you could.

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            1. One of the problems is, I have studied this a lot, and for my own life too, so it comes off as being very arrogant that you think I haven’t studied it and somehow I just need something else that you can say to make me see God’s word differently. Homosexual sin, in the NT is affirmed, and in a big way. I don’t have the time right now to address all your comments, but I will when I can because I think it’s important for other readers to know how these issues are addressed in the orthodox church.

              It also is wrong of you to say I condemn gay people. I get irritated with people, no matter what color or orientation they are, just like anyone else does. If I saw that a heterosexual was gleefully committing adultery, I’d be very upset with them indeed. However, I will say this. Gays in California have made it so little children have to be taught about gay couples and are FORCED to accept it. It’s a moral issue and should not be forced on anyone. You guys want respect? Then don’t force personal views on us, just like you don’t want us to force personal views on you. That is a simple one, and one that I don’t see much discussion on, yet is has created a very big back-lash.

              So, much of where you’re coming from is like a false argument. I don’t condemn gays, God condemns homosexual ACTS. Adultery is wrong, but the fact is, most people believe it is wrong and repent of it. I don’t get how so many gays use this argument. It’s saying that others sin, so it’s OK that I sin. I’ve never thought that about anything, and divorce is a serious issue. But people think divorce is wrong. Can you control all that happens to you? Neither can people in marriage where one person beats the other, cheats on the other, abandons the other. We live in a fallen world where things happen to us that have nothing to do with our will. Granted, many people get divorce for lesser reasons and shouldn’t, but that’s their problem.

              Anyway, later.

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    2. I don’t know what you are trying to accomplish here, but perhaps you would do good to stop, step back, take a deep breath, and think. It’s one thing to disagree with people, it’s another to come on to their blog and tell them how to think, and tell them what you THINK they were getting at.

      Saying her creed is “I believe in one God, who condemns homosexuals, maker of Heaven and Earth.” Is putting words in her mouth. I too do not believe in homosexuality, and think it is a sin, and I also happen to have friends who are gay. They know what I think, and are not bigots, and are okay with me having a different view point. It’s closed minded to think others can’t disagree with you. Disagreeing and hating are two totally different things. Yes, adultery is a sin, but divorce isn’t looked at as much, in your mind, because you are looking for those who accuse homosexuals. Not to mention that adultery and divorce are not the same thing. Adultery encompasses sex outside of marriage, lusting after someone, AND divorce and remarriage just because you got bored with your current spouse. I have seen a lot of attacks on adultery, and many of them get quite angry and heated, because like homosexuality, it is a hot button issue with different interpretations.

      Anyway, you have NO right to come on to someone’s blog, ignore their answers because they don’t give you the answer you want, and tell them how to think.

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  3. acknowledge your sin and turn away from it period. Acting on homosexual urges is sin. Don’t try to justify it, it’s wrong. Just like adultery, stealing, blasphemy, murder etc. You can’t be God, you are trying to create your own “god” to suit yourself. It’s black and white, God says homosexuals will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Try trusting Him, it’s your best medicine to a sinful life.

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  4. Reading it so my as well put my two cents into this one…
    1. How in the heck did a pretty good explanation turn into a discussion of different sins, specifically adultery, fornication and homosexuality? The truth is – all three are equally ‘sin’. For further clarification, all three of those sins were sins of capital punishment in the theocracy of Israel. I don’t think, simply from reading ‘with Christian eyes’ post, that he is specifying a particular one BUT… to state otherwise, that homosexuality, fornication and adultery (any of them) are to be ignored so we don’t ‘hurt someone’s sensitivities’ completely nullifies the whole Christian agenda, that being to comply with the mission at hand set by Jesus himself. How can the gospel (good news) of Jesus’ work on the cross be propagated unless one points out what the good news is about? Jesus Christ died to save you! Save you from what? Apparently, if talking about and pointing out sin is hurting someone’s sensitivities and therefore ‘wrong’, then how do we, as believers, point this out. Jesus Christ saved us from the power, penalty and hopefully soon, presence of sin.
    2. Theologically, there are three groups of OT laws, Ceremonial, Legal, and Moral. The best way to separate these types of laws is to look ‘outside the box’. Essentially, simply ask yourself four questions: A. Is this ‘law’ repeated and confirmed by Jesus and his apostles and/or changed by them but not annulled? B. Was this law practiced outside of Israel by people before the law and by the gentiles during and after the law was given? C. Can this law be practiced without Israel being in existence? D. Did the apostles call an end to the law in question within the NT canon? If Questions A, B, and C is answered with a Yes and question D is answered with a No then you can bet your sweet dollar that the law in question is a Moral Law incorporated into the ‘Law of Christ’. There are other moral laws in the OT that do not follow this simple math (such as monogamy for instance) but, in general, you can use these four questions to get a good picture of what is ‘surely’ incorporated leaving the other laws speculative until you learn more.
    3. Divorce: Touchy subject here. Truthfully, the act of divorce, for any reason, is really not a grave issue and was never ‘sin’, or better put, was never in conflict with the OT law and allowed with certain stipulations. What is conflicting is the ‘remarriage’ or fornication/adultery after the divorce. If you are divorced AND you are the instigator of same (abandonment by your partner is an acceptable termination of the marriage contract if you’re a believer) and you remarry (btw remarrying is inclusive of sexual relations of any type regardless of one’s political or social standing meaning, you don’t have to have a preacher or a governing entity proclaim a marriage) you commit adultery.

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