July 15, 2006 § Leave a comment
I have recently found myself in an online debate with Matt “Mojo” Morginsky, former lead singer of the OC Supertones. It all started with this post on his myspace blog. While I don’t disagree with the idea that tattoos are not forbidden, I felt his reasons were insufficient. So I told him so in a letter that read thus:
While I agree with the principle of reading scripture in context, I think there was an even better principle you could have used to illustrate your point. The fact that the verse in question was from the Old Covenant is reason enough to re-examine it. The best principle to use here is that it was part of a covenant made between God and the Hebrews, and this covenant was replaced by the New Covenant in Christ’s blood. The only laws and directives that carry over are the ones specifically outlined by Christ and His Apostles. So, for instance, when the old covenant tells you that you must make restitution eye for an eye, Christ has changed that law with turn the other cheek. I understand how many churches are teaching this distinction of “ceremonial law, cultural law, moral law,” and so forth, saying that many of the laws were done away with, but we still follow the moral law. I put forth that Paul in Galatians and Romans, and the writer of Hebrews dispels this type of interpretation by outright saying that the whole Law was done away with by Christ’s work on the cross. Hebrews goes so far as to call the first law “obsolete” and about to disappear in the creation of the new covenant. (Hebrews 12:13)
Unfortunately, because of this mixing of the covenants – the old and the new—there is a creation of confusion. We cannot dip into the old covenant if we are saved by the new covenant; they are covenants meant for two different people at two different times in history. God has done a new thing in Christ and the old has been fulfilled and completed when Christ said “It is finished” on the Cross. Now we are sealed by the Blood of the Lamb, instead covered by the blood of goats and bulls. All of this is in Hebrews, BTW, and a healthy reading of Romans and Galatians will back me up here.
Anyway, ALL of that is to say that unless Christ re-iterates it or His Apostles teach it, it is not a part of the New Covenant. So the fact that no one ever mentions tattoos means that there is no teaching against such things. As Paul says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable; all things are lawful, but not all things edify.” 1 Cor. 10:23.
Finally, in reference to the two verses that bookend the tattoo verse that you used for illustration. The question based on this new principle is: Are either of these commands given in the New Covenant? And the answer is, yes. The command to not eat meat with the blood still in it is a command that is still to be followed by Christians, even today. This was decided at the Council at Jerusalem as described in Acts 15. There are only four laws from the Old Law that the Apostles agreed that the new Gentile believers must follow. James said “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornic ation; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well.” Acts 15:28, 29.
So those Irish eating their blood sausage need to carefully rethink that if they are followers of Christ—it’s right up there with fornication.”
He answered “dawn, why do you assume discontinuity between new and previous covenants? can you site a scripture mandating it besides “christ is the end of the law”? look at matthew 5:17 when paul says Christ is the “end” he is not saying he has abolished the law he’s saying he is the culmination, point and purpose. if you only follow commands reiterated in the new testament then you can have no problem with bestiality or incest.”
And I replied with:
I do believe that bestiality and incest fall under “fornication” (or the Greek “pornaeia” literally translated to mean *any* sexual deviancy outside of or even within marriage) which is quite clearly denounced throughout the new testament…
As I said, Hebrews, Galatians and Romans all explain the ending of the old and the beginning of the new. I highly recommend an in-depth study of Hebrews– it’s quite eye-opening on this point. But consider how ardently Paul pleads with the Galatians not to fall into the folly of following the old Law. “Will you complete in the flesh that which was begun in the Spirit?”
Hebrews quite clearly teaches that the Old Covenant was one that was made obsolete and about to pass away with the inception of the New Covenant in Christ’s Blood. (Heb. 8:13; 9:8-10; 7:12; 7:18; Jer. 31:31-34) The writer of Hebrews carefully explains how the old law was one that could not save or create righteousness (Gal. 2:16; Rom. 9:30-33; Heb. 10:4; 7:18-19.) The writer, and Paul in his epistles, makes it clear that to attempt to follow the Law as a form of justification would in fact now be wrong (Rom. 7:1-6; Heb. 10:11-18; Heb. 13:9-13; Gal. 4:8-11, 5:2-4.)
The Law was merely an interim between the promise to Abraham and the advent of that promise (Jesus). (Gal. 3:19; Rom. 4:1-25; Matt 5:17-18.) Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law and declared, in His authority, its completion (Eph. 2:11-18; Heb. 7:18-19; Heb. 7:22,) rendering the Old Covenant no longer a valid form of relationship between man and God (Heb. 8:13.)
A new ‘Royal Law’ was instituted with Christ’s death (Jam. 2:8-13) so we are no longer judged by the OT Law, but by Christ’s Law of Liberty. In fact, Jesus went above and beyond the Law to restore His original intentions for a sinless humanity. He is undoing the Genesis Curse and returning all things to His original and intended order (Matthew Chapter 5) through His Church—the expression of His Kingdom on earth—until His return.
The Council of Jerusalem established the former things by which Christians are still to be bound. These were some of the commands God set into place before the Law—meat with blood, food sacrificed to idols, strangled meat, and fornication (Acts 15:19-20; Genesis 2:24, 35:2 & 9:4; Exodus 34:15.) With the coming of the New Covenant, Christians may follow the Law for habitual/cultural reasons, while understanding that no justification is given for these acts. (Acts 16:1-3; Gal. 5:1; Col. 2:16-17; Rom. 14.)
So my point is that when presented with a verse from the OT that commands some random thing and asked if we are still bound by this, that answer is almost invariably, NO! We are not bound by *anything* in the OT Law. We are bound by the Royal Law of Christ. And if something in the OT overlaps with something in the NT, then we have our answer. Christ has fulfilled and completed the Old Law, and instituted a new (and in some ways harder and more narrow) Law. But it is still His Law of Liberty—we are free to live however we want as long as we are following Him by walking in His Spirit and growing in His grace and righteousness.
My whole issue here is that it seems to me that new believers are no longer taught scripture– they are taught doctrine. Rather than being taught to be diligent and allow scripture to shape their doctrine, new believers are presented with these pretty packages of theologies and doctrines that other “smarter and wiser learned men” have thought out for them. So the default thinking is that if Luther or Wesley or Edwards said it, it must be true. Never mind that they based their sermons and theologies on other such “learned men” like Augustine who himself was theologizing during a time when the church had drifted from true practice and doctrine.
Basically, the churches of today teach traditions, not the teachings of Christ and His Apostles. And no one stops to say the emperor’s naked. I’m sick and tired of debating Edwards, Luther, Augustine et al. They were WRONG ok? About so much. But because the church had slid farther and farther from actually believing Christ’s teachings and following them, it made it easier to change doctrines bit by bit. Today, a president can claim Christ as his personal savior and send troops into war, ignoring Christ’s commands to love your enemies and turn the other cheek. Thanks Augustine. I’m so glad people are willing to listen to him over the One they claim as Savior and Lord.
Because of this appalling tendency to rely on tradition and “doctrine” believers don’t have a foot to stand on when defending their faith. And what IS your faith if you have to twist Christ’s words to no longer mean what they seem to be saying? If you have to bend over backwards to describe a part of the Law that we do follow and the parts we don’t— when Scripture clearly says we are bound by none of it– what is your faith? If you believe that there is such a thing as a “just war” or that it is fine for Christians to slaughter in the name of God, who is your Savior? If we cannot rely on the words that came out of the mouth of the Man we claim to follow as being true and worthy of obedience, how can we call ourselves true followers?
If we are picking and choosing which verses we like and don’t like, and allowing these “learned men” (who must know what they are talking about,) to shape our beliefs, how can we be sure that our faith is true? Where will we stand on that day when Christ looks us in the heart and declares “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”
I want to make certain that I know HIM, so that I may certainly be known by Him. Shouldn’t we all?