It’s one or the other

Continuing from the last post:  I resist the notion that believers today ought to concern themselves directly with the Old Covenant or with any of its provisions or laws.  That covenant was limited in terms of 1) time, 2) place, and 3) one of the parties thereto.

It should be acknowledged that Jesus said, “I came not to abolish [the Law and Prophets] but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17).  One must be aware of the historical and literary contexts of that statement in order to interpret it well.  Here, I make no claim to thoroughly treating the passage contextually — only to raising sample concerns.

Historical Context

Jesus made that statement within a very real context:  first-century Israel.  Israelites were all around him, and it may be asserted that they were the dominant group in Judea and Galilee.  Jesus, being both teacher and God, well knew the rich history of the Israelites — with whom God had dealt since Abram-Isaac-Jacob and Moses.

So, when a first-century Jew said something authoritative about fulfilling and not abolishing the Law, it meant something different, when compared with the import of such a statement from, say, a Zionist or Seventh-day Adventist today.

Literary Context

There is also the matter of the appearance of this statement within a document written and compiled by Matthew.  A viable, valid interpretation will take an inquiring posture — inquiring of this one document on its own, that is — as to what Law means within that document, and what fulfillment means, and how Jesus is presented as dealing with Kingdom and Law and Jews and Pharisees and such.

I also acknowledge that God — as manifest in the picture of Jesus’ almost-motherly lament over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-39) — may still have “feeling” for the Jews that once constituted His people.  To be sure, He dealt first-hand with that people-group for a very long time, and those dealings are instructive and revealing.

To have one’s memory refreshed about the nature of God can be wonderfully enriching.  There remains the question of the present, though.  I cannot believe that God wants anyone to live now under a covenant/legal system that John and Saul-Paul and others worked so hard to controvert.

Aside:  I read a bit last month about the origins of the Seventh-day Adventists.  There was a connection, way back in the middle 1800s, with the Baptist and Church of Christ groups.  Suffice it to say that, after coming to know just a few particulars about William Miller, Ellen G. White, and Millerism, and Post-Disappointment Millerism, I find no reason to read any more about this sadly ill-informed cult.  (I do not know whether the Seventh Day Baptists claim or have much tie with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.)

I’m currently digging in John and dealing with many textually significant questions.  It seems clear that, no matter whether one thinks this document was written a) only by John or b) by a community that surrounded the elderly apostle, the wonders and words and witnesses in John are, among other things, showing this:  that Jews may either reject or accept Jesus as “Messiah,” and their choice makes all the difference.  I see no way that a Bible-believing Christian can read NC scripture and come out with the view that Jews may be saved, post-Jesus of Galilee, by virtue of their Jewish heritage.

The scenario has been the same for 2,000 years.  One only needs to choose.

It’s either Moses or the Messiah.

It’s Islam or the Incarnate One.

It’s pandering to this life, or accepting the Lord Who became Lamb.

It’s one or the other.

What we do with Jesus makes the difference.  He was either false, or crazy, or exactly Who He said He was.  More memorably, quotably, and alliteratively:

He is either a liar, a lunatic, or truly Lord.

For more on the above informative, provocative, demanding “trilemma,” see this article, and note especially C.S. Lewis’s Formulation.

For more teaching on Old vs. New:


4 thoughts on “It’s one or the other

  1. John Eoff 02/22/2014 / 9:24 am

    Good article, Brian; My thought is that since Jesus was not the giver of the law he could in no way abolish it. What he could, and did, do was fulfill it so that it’s author could abolish it, thus replacing the Natural kingdom of Israel with the Spiritual eternal kingdom of heaven, in which is no sin so no need for the provisions of the law for compensating for sins.


    • Brian Casey 02/22/2014 / 9:44 am

      Thanks for these good thoughts, John. I hadn’t thought about that angle — that Jesus wasn’t the giver. I sometimes ponder “Word” and “Only [begotten] Son” and “Christ”/”Messiah” as pre-existing. The eternal “Word” might in some way have been party to the giving of the Law, the powerful speaking-into-existence of creation, etc. But I’m not sure about this at all. Inasmuch as Jesus was the human manifestation of deity on earth, it makes sense that when He was speaking to mostly Jews, He would consider only *the Father *to have been the one to abolish, while He fulfilled.

      On Sat, Feb 22, 2014 at 9:24 AM, NT Christianity wrote:



  2. pearlie 03/02/2014 / 7:27 pm

    Thanks Brian for your comment on my blog with regards to the chiasm of the gospel of John. You can pm me at ngpearlie at yahoo.


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