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Topic 38: The New Creation


Is it possible that Paul counsels from both rabbinic as well as Gospel insights?  Do the unique insights provided by the Gospel at times change or negate the rabbinic or Old Testament logic and approach (such as between 1 Corinthians 11:9 and 1 Corinthians 11:11)?  Does an insight as we find in Galatians 3:28 represent a “break through” which negates the idea of certain groups “keeping silent in the church”?

Some passages of Holy Scriptures which seem to contradict previous passages are simply fuller revelations and reflect deeper divine insights than the previous ones.  Below are a number of examples:

(A) One example measures retaliation and forgiveness:

(1) Genesis 4:23-24: “Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Sillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, hearken to what I say: I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.  If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”  The Old Testament cultural context permitted unlimited retaliation.

(2) Deuteronomy 19:21: “Your eye shall not pity: it shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”  The Mosaic law posits a limited retaliation.

(3) Matthew 5:38-41: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil.  But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  Jesus takes the problem one step further and denies any retaliation as a Christian response.

(4) Not all of Scripture expresses the Creator’s original intent.  But we see the gradual unfolding of God’s intended will most fully expressed in Jesus Christ.  We do not hold to the teaching of the Genesis passage or the Deuteronomic passage, but we do teach the forgiveness implied in Jesus’ words.

(B) Another example:

(1) Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” God’s original intent is the concept of one indissoluble union.

(2) Deuteronomy 24: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter husband dislikes her and writes her a bill of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord.”  Moses permits an exception to God’s intent.

(3) Mark 10:2-5: “And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’  He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.’  But Jesus said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.  But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.”  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.'”

(4) Jesus appeals to Scripture (Genesis) against Scripture (Deuteronomy).  Jesus goes back to the original intent of the Creator.

(C) And another:

(1) Leviticus 15:25-31: “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her impurity … everything on which she sits shall be unclean, as in the uncleanness of her impurity.  And whoever touches these things shall be unclean, and shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening.”

(2) Luke 8:43-48: “And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by any one, came up behind [Jesus], and touched the fringe of his garment … And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.'”

(D) We do have commands and prohibitions in Scripture that are not absolute:

(1) “Thou shalt not kill,” yet the government is given the power of the sword.

(2) “In everything give thanks,” yet certainly not for having given in to temptation.

(E) The Deuteronomic injunction is transformed by forgiveness; compare:

(1) Leviticus 20:10: “... commit adultery … shall be put to death...”

(2) John 8:47: “Let him without sin among you cast the first stone … Go, sin no more.

(F) Numbers 27:1-11  The daughters of Zelophedad, disinherited according to the Levitical laws (which recognized only sons as heirs, Deuteronomy 21:15-17), appeal their property rights against the Levitical laws before Moses. The request is granted, and the law is changed to “[vs 7] … cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them.”

(G) Scripture does reflect the human limitations and emotions of its human authors even when they are opposite God’s ultimate will; compare:

(1) Psalm 137:9: “Happy shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!”

(2) Proverbs 24:17-18: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the Lord see it, and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.

(H) Judaism forbade women to worship with men. The early church had the question: “How do women interact with men now that we worship together?”

(I) These examples from the Scriptures need to be kept in mind when we approach texts that seem to bind the faithful in the absolute and immutable.  God’s intention in dealing with sinful humans is their salvation, and his prophets and apostles work in their individual situations to remove barriers which inhibit people from faithfully embracing fully their life with God.

(J) There is a recognition among biblical students that, even though “all Scripture is inspired” (2 Timothy 3:16), not every passage of Scripture is on a parity with every other verse and theme of Scripture.

(K) Scripture reveals in some places insights not available in others.  In Christ comes the new: Baptism replacing circumcision, Eucharist over Passover, substance instead of shadow, one Lamb surpassing many sacrificial lambs.

(L) Thus, even if in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 Paul were ordering public proclamation based on the “orders of creation,” creation order can be renewed and replaced by new insights such as Galatians 3:27 and 28.

(M) This does not mean playing one proof text against another.  It does mean seeking passages that more clearly and unmistakably capture God’s intent for his first creation and his New Creation.

[2 Corinthians 5:17] Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.  [18]  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; [19] that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  [20]  So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.

Thesis: In Christ, the Gospel and the Spirit change the Old Order and the old carnal way of relating.

(A) The NEB catches the sense: “[17]…and a new order has already begun.”

(B) “In Christ” the new has already begun; yet for Paul all is not yet fulfilled.  Christian life is simul justus et peccator and growing in sanctification (Romans 6:19, 1 Peter 2:2).

(C) Operating within this tension, Paul can point to the New Creation; yet recognizing “the old” is still not completely defeated, he can advise pastorally on the basis of the New Creation within the old order.

(D) Thus, recognizing the presence and power of sin, Paul had to be satisfied with partial application (e.g., the slave question).