• Thayer Thursday – Ancient law, modern law & the Gospel

Jun
26
Thayer Thursday – Ancient law, modern law & the Gospel

Chris Thayer is the Director of Discipleship at Good Shepherd Church in Charlotte, NC where he oversees adult life groups and Biblical education. On Thursdays I share his weekly “Thayer’s Thoughts” for small group leaders, which are based on the previous Sunday’s sermon. Click HERE to watch or listen to the accompanying sermon.

 

 

I recently had the opportunity to join a LifeGroup during their summer kick-off picnic. Not only did I enjoy the hamburgers and bratwurst, but I also had some great conversations with the people there. One of the individuals I spoke with is a lawyer. After having recently heard my friend and colleague JM Smith talk about how cases were decided in Ancient Israel, and knowing that it was different from America’s criminal justice system: I asked her why she thought we didn’t follow the same process.

Ancient laws (including those in the Old Testament) didn’t give answers to every possible scenario a judge may encounter. Instead, they were given general principles or scenarios from which they were supposed to extract principles and apply them to the case at hand. They would then decide on just recourse based on these extracted principles (see Doug Stuart’s chapter on the subject in Preaching the Old Testament). In contrast to that, the justice system that most of us live under today is much more detailed. Judges don’t decide cases based on principles (except the highest levels of our court system which decide whether or not something is constitutional), but on very detailed standards for specific situations. This is why lawyers have so much to read!

When I asked my friend at the LifeGroup picnic about why we do it this way, her answer came quickly: without specific standards, you’re at the mercy of the one deciding the case. In order for there to be fairness across the legal system there has to be very specific and detailed standards. In the corrupt world we live in—her response makes perfect sense. However, I can’t help but notice that we expect scripture to act the same way as our law books.

In my experience, when people try to discern God’s will for a situation in their life, they turn to their Bibles in hopes that they will find an exact answer to their dilemma. They treat the words of the Bible like they would a modern law book: flip to the page that discusses your exact case, and follow its recommendations accordingly. However, that’s not what the Bible is. If we take the words of Romans 12:2 seriously—we see that God has designed something quite different for us than that…

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

All of scripture, and especially the letter of Romans, points to a radically new relationship with the God of this universe achieved through the death and resurrection of His Son. We’re being transformed to be like Jesus. This includes the mind which we are to actively protect from being muddled by the world and pursue it’s renewal and transformation. Through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8), we are given direct access to the ‘law’ God wants us to follow—His will. It has been written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

In other words: what God has designed for us is not a law book which we look to in order to discern His will. Instead what scripture overwhelmingly points to is that He has given us a relationship with Him through which we learn how to live.

God did choose to address specific issues and give us clear directives and firm boundaries on them in scripture. Yet compared with the volume of situations which aren’t directly addressed, these are relatively few. So be transformed by the renewing of your mind so you can test and approve what God’s will is. His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

 

Chris Thayer

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