Fighting the Same Old Fight as Paul . . . 2000 Years Later
How is it possible that in 2021 we're still wrestling over the most basic, foundational gospel truths Paul fought for over 2000 years ago?
Paul's writings teach that Christ did not come to add something to the law.
Instead, Paul taught that Christ came to fulfil the law. In Christ the law had an end.
See the difference between these two approaches?
1. (Law + Christ)
2. (Christ - Law)
Are we No. 1 or No. 2 Christians?
(1) Adding Christ to the heaps of traditions and cultural craziness we carry, treating Christ like the cherry-on-top of our growing list of carnal commandments; or
(2) Are we taking Christ and subtracting everything else?
I want to suggest that "coming unto Christ" does not mean adding Christ to our religious and spiritual baggage; no, coming unto Christ means we set aside all of our religious and spiritual baggage and just embrace Him.
Paul was that kind of Christian. He was a No. 2 kinda Christian, wasn't he? He spent his career fighting the Judaizers who wanted to hold on to their precious laws and traditions.
If we choose to keep our modern-day versions of the "Law of Moses" as Christians, are we really Christians?
Think about that for a minute.
What message are we sending to others (and to Christ who freed us from the Law) if we continue to follow the lesser laws of carnal commandments?
We're free! We are no longer bound by a lesser, legalistic, broken law.
Who Are We Yoked To?
Some members of the Church seem to think we can have our cake and eat it too: that we can be Christians while yoked to carnal commandments AND Christ.
But Christ's yoke is easy because it cannot be shared.
Jesus told us we cannot have two masters. His yoke is light because there is nothing else competing or pulling us away from Him.
On the other hand, I rarely hear the gospel preached in Church. Instead, I hear people sharing the traditions of their fathers.
Why are we passing along to our children what we were told 50 years ago, telling them to be like us? We should be telling them to be like Christ!
Who cares what we were taught about face cards, caffeine, modesty, lipstick, Sabbath observance, tithing, word of wisdom, rated R movies . . . as if any of that had anything to do with the gospel!
We are guilty of smothering Christ's marvelous gift with the dung of carnal commandments in an effort to build a hedge around the law (that no longer exists) in order to "control" our children.
I guess we're so worried our children will become sinners that we turn them into sinners in our efforts to spare them from sin, teaching them to be Pharisees instead of Christians.
Heaven forbid they should wear two pairs of earrings (I can just imagine what Ephraim's mother who was Egyptian would say to that).
It's like we're telling Christ, "Stay here. I'll be right back," and then we turn our backs to Him while we busy ourselves keeping all these carnal commandments.
When. He. Is. Standing. Right. Here.
See the problem? We are turning away from Christ when we make religion a me-focused, works-based, self-righteous soteriology ― which is what the Pharisees were famous for.
(Is this what it means for a dog to return to its vomit?)
Are we crazy? Paul sure thought so.
If the Dead Could Speak
Moses himself must be turning over in his grave (or whatever translated beings do) watching us make a mockery of Christ's sacrifice by being Latter-day Judaizers.
Who were the Judaizers, you ask? I've copied this from Wikipedia:
In the New Testament, the Judaizers were a group of Jewish Christians who insisted that their co-religionists should follow the Mosaic Law and that Gentile converts to Christianity must first be circumcised.
Paul warned the early Galatian church that gentile Christians who submit to circumcision will be alienated from Christ: "Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:2–4).
Who We Gonna Follow?
In Deuteronomy, Moses says:
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me [Moses]; unto him [the Prophet, who is Jesus] ye shall hearken.
Here's The. Prophet. Moses. Himself. telling us to stop following him (Moses) and to start following Him (Jesus).
Where did our "follow the prophet" culture come from, when Moses is saying, "Follow Jesus, you idiots."
So why don't we?
Speaking of Circumcision . . .
There's a fascinating passage in the Doctrine and Covenants about circumcision in Section 74, regarding the controversy involving the Judaizers and Peter and James and Paul.
I think it will be eye-opening for us to read it together:
"And it came to pass that there arose a great contention among the people concerning the law of circumcision . . .
[These are the Lord's people. Christians. Who are fighting over a religious practice. Remember what causes contention? Contention is caused by people trying to control each other. In this case, there was sharp disagreement over whether followers of Christ should be circumcised as was required under the Law.]
"for the unbelieving husband was desirous that his children should be circumcised and become subject to the law of Moses . . .
[Careful here. The "unbelieving husband" is referring to the so-called Christians who still wanted to follow the Law of Moses. The Lord is saying, "It is a sign of unbelief to want to be bound by the Law because it means you don't have faith in Me." Because their trust was not in Christ alone, but in their obedience to the law.]
"which law was fulfilled.
[Here Christ is reminding everyone that He fulfilled the Law so we are no longer bound by it, and, by inference, that we make a mockery of God's sacrifice when we return to the Law like a dog to its vomit.]
"And it came to pass that the children, being brought up in subjection to the law of Moses, gave heed to the traditions of their fathers and believed not the gospel of Christ, wherein they became unholy.
[Where's my trumpet so I can shout this truth from the rooftops? The generations of Latter-day Saints have been rendered "unholy," like the early Christians, because we give "heed to the traditions of our fathers," which is toxic to the pure gospel of Christ.]
"Wherefore, for this cause the apostle [Paul] wrote unto the church, giving unto them a commandment, not of the Lord, but of himself, that a believer should not be united to an unbeliever; except the law of Moses should be done away among them."
[Okay, this is a bit bizarre. It appears that Paul viewed a person as an "unbeliever" if they mixed the gospel with the traditions of their fathers.]
"Tim, I do not live the Law of Moses"
You're probably thinking, "What does this have to do with Latter-day Saints? We don't live the Law of Moses. We're not Jews. What are all these 'carnal commandments' you are talking about?"
Okay. Ask yourselves:
1. Do we follow a prophet, our very own modern-day Moses?
2. Are we told to pay tithes and offerings like the Jews were?
3. Do we build temples like the Jews did?
4. Are we instructed to wear special clothing just as the Jews had their own dress code?
5. Is the Word of Wisdom similar to the dietary restrictions imposed on the Jews (no coffee instead of no pork)?
6. Do we have Levitical (Aaronic) priests?
What's the Main Point?
The list goes on. But the main point is this:
Are we are mixing the gospel with a whole lot of stuff that is not part of the gospel?
(For a people told not gamble, why are we so cavalier about gambling with the gospel?)