Is the New Testament Primarily a Law Book?

Is the New Testament Primarily a Law Book?

What is the purpose of and makeup of a “Law Book?”

  1. Law books are “prima-fascia” documents containing ONLY enforced: Provisions, rules, guidelines, and explanations of enacted legislation that sole purpose is to interpret regulations for the general and specifically governing of a common group of people within society. They contain reports of cases decided by courts, commentaries on legislative procedures, rules, regulations, and clear interpretations etc… arranged for references purposes.
  2. The purpose of a “Law Book” is to enforce and control by way of established punishments and civil constraints for individual unlawful acts committed against the general good order of society.

What is the makeup of the “New Testament?”

  1. The New Testament consists of four narratives of the life, teaching, and death of Jesus, called “gospels”; a narrative of the Apostles’ ministries in the early church, called the “Acts of the Apostles” and by the same author as the Gospel of Luke, which it continues; twenty-one letters, often called “epistles” in the biblical context, written by various authors and consisting mostly of Christian counsel, instruction, and conflict resolution; and the Book of Revelation.
  2. The New Testament consists of 27 books. The New Testament is an anthology, a collection of works written at different times by various authors.
  • Paul was the author of the majority of the New Testament with 13 books attributed directly to him. (3 on specific teaching and 10 on addressing cultural, social, and religious issues effecting the church)
  • John authored 5 of the books. (1 on the life of Jesus, 1 on the forth coming future, and 3 addressing cultural, social, and religious issues effecting the church)
  • Luke authored 2 of the books. (1 on the life of Jesus and 1 on the history of early church growth)
  • Peter authored 2 of the books. (Both addressing cultural, social, and religious issues effecting the church)
  • James authored 1. (Addressing cultural, social, and religious issues effecting the church)
  • Jude authored 1. (Addressing cultural, social, and religious issues effecting the church)
  • Matthew authored 1. (On the life of Jesus)
  • Mark authored 1. (On the life of Jesus)
  • Anonymous authored 1 called Hebrews. (On religious issues effecting the church)
  1. The original texts of the New Testament were written beginning around AD 45, with the Book of James and ending with John’s writing of Revelations being the last book written about A.D 95 to 96. Thus all of the New Testament was written no later than the mid 2nd century.
  2. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek.
  3. There are over 5,300 known ancient Greek manuscripts (MSS) and fragments of the New Testament that have survived until today. In addition, there are over 10,000 Latin Vulgate manuscripts and over 9,300 other early manuscript versions in Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, and Ethiopic. All total, there are over 24,000 surviving manuscripts of the New Testament today. Very minor changes and variations in (the authentic) manuscripts affect none of the central Christian doctrine nor do they change the message and therefore all are considered of lasting value.

What is the purpose of the “New Testament?”

  1. The main purpose of the entire bible is to inform individuals of the “Truth” or real nature and attributes of God and Jesus.
  2. The main purpose and goal of the New Testament is to inform individuals of the “Truth” as to the specific criteria and instructions of God in order to receive the inheritance of adoption into God’s family known as eternal salvation.
  3. The secondary purpose of the New Testament is to direct the work of an individual’s “life long” adoption to God through Jesus.
  4. The third purpose of the New Testament is instruction on how to live in loving peace with all other people on a daily bases.
  5. Included in the third purpose: the New Testament has many sub-purposes directed at specific instructions for people concerning how to live their individual lives. It is practical for educating, identifying mistakes, and correcting them and guidance in honest moral and virtuous living, so that the individual is carefully outfitted for every good effort they strive to accomplish.
  6. It is a historical record. The Book of Acts is a historical record of the early Church.
  7. It is a “Self-Help” guide. The epistles that make up most of the New Testament deal both with problems faced by local congregations and issues of concern that effected the early Church at large. Today’s congregations facing difficulties can greatly benefit from the wisdom and advice on how to approach and deal with modern problems facing unique situations.

Simple Definitions

  • LAW is to bind restrictions that are enforceable by punishment.
  • COMMAND is to direct or influence personal choice and may be laws.
  • EXAMPLES are NOT law and are NOT binding: they just show how something might be accomplished.
  • IMPLICATIONS (necessary inferences) are NOT law and are NOT binding: they just imply one possible reason something was accomplished.

Illustrations of Points to Consider:

#1          The Worship Assembly:

  1. a. Worship Format: None of the New Testament writings address any specific structural or specific universal formal pattern of HOW to do worship. Jesus actually “WOO’S the Jewish leaders of His day for nit-picking God’s intended purposes.
  2. b. Hebrews 10
    1. 1. Request that each person have a clear heart. Verse 22
    2. 2. Command to be wash with pure water. Verse 22
    3. 3. Request to hold to our confession of faith. Verse 23
    4. 4. Request to encourage each other to love deeper and do good to others by not skipping regular times of interpersonal fellowship. Verse 24 and 25
    5. 5. Warning that continual sin will negate our salvation and home with God. Verse 26
    6. 6. Warning concerning the result of continual sin. Verse 27 to 31
    7. c. Corinthians 11

1.         General life commands that God is the head of Jesus, Jesus the head of man, and man the head of woman. Verse 2 to 16

2.         Rebuke concerning selfish attitudes of the church when they assemble (specifically the Lord’s Supper.) Verse 17 to 33

d.         Corinthians 12

1.         Explanation (example) on the one Holy Spirit and the verity of spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit within the church and how each gift is in harmony with the others. Verse 1 to 11

2.         Explanation (example) concerning the verity of membership within the church and how the membership might function in harmony. Verse 12 to 31

e.         Corinthians 13

1.         Explanation of the importance of love towards others. Verse 1 to 3

2.         Example of true Godly love. Verse 4 to 7

3.         Explanation of who we do not know all truth until Jesus returns. Verse 8 to 12

4.         Statement of the great importance of love. Verse 13

f.         Corinthians 14

1.         Encouragement to seek after true Godly love and to teach others. Verse 1 to 5

2.         Encouragement to seek to build up the church and not be concerned with speaking in unintelligible languages. Verse 6 to 19

3.         Encouragement to not create confusion to non-believers who might visit. Verse 20 to 25

4.         Explanation that everything done in church should be to encourage and build each other up. Verse 26 to 33

5.         Explanation why it is counter productive for a married woman to offer opposite opinions in church in context with prophesy (teach by offering explanations or understanding of topic). Verse 34 to 35

6.         Encouragement for all to teach each other in a spirit of love in order to build everyone up and not be disruptive or divisive. Verse 36 to 39

7.         Encouragement that everything done in the church should be orderly. Verse 40

g.         Corinthians 16

1.         Situational Command to give. Verse 1 to 4

2.         Situational Command for each member to set aside a contribution as they can afford on the first day of each week. Verse 2

3.         Explanation for the situational instruction to give. Verse 2 to 4

h.         Acts 2

1.         Direct Command to repent and be baptized. Verse 38

2.         Explanation of the command to repent and be baptized. Verse 38 to 40

3.         Example of how the church (those people that repented and were baptized) in Jerusalem worshiped God and fellowshipped each other daily. Verse 42 to 47

i.         Ephesians 4

1.         Encouragement for each individual within the church to love and build each other up. Verse 1 to 16

2.         Encouragement for each individual within the church to live like Jesus and not live a worldly life. Verse 17 to 24

3.         Encouragement on how each individual within the church should conduct their interpersonal relationships. Verse 25 to 32

j.         Ephesians 5

1.         Encouragement for each individual within the church to live (in true love) and build each other up. Verse 1 to 21

2.         Warning of what Godly living is not. Verse 3 to 14

3.         Encouragement on how each individual within the church should conduct their interpersonal relationships with each other. Verse 15 to 21

k.         Colossians 3

  1. 1. Encouragements to each individual on how to live like Jesus. Verse 1 to 4
  2. 2. Encouragement to each individual to stop and no longer live a sinful life. Verse 5 to 11
  3. 3. Explanation to each individual on what it looks like to live like Jesus. Verse 12 to 17

#2          The Lord’s Supper:

  1. a. Lord’s Supper Format: None of the New Testament writings address any specific structural or specific universal formal pattern of HOW to observe the Lord’s Supper.
  2. b. The ONLY Direct Commands:
    1. 1. (Matthew 26:26 ESV) “Take, eat; this is my body.”
    2. 2. (Mark 14:22 ESV) “Take, this is my body.”
    3. 3. (Luke 22:19 ESV) “Do this in remembrance of me.”
    4. 4. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) “Do this in remembrance of me”
    5. c. The Reason: We observe the Lord’s Supper has nothing at all to do with anything physical. It has everything to do with keeping the Spiritual purpose and intent of the forgiveness given by Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension always in our hearts.
    6. d. Where is the Command: There is NO command or example of specifically when (day or night; time; daily; weekly; monthly; annually) to observe the Lord’s Supper given in the New Testament.
    7. e. Where is the Command: There is NO command or example of specifically how to observe the Lord’s Supper given in the New Testament.
    8. f. Where is the Command: There is NO command or example of the specific order of the implements used in our observance of the Lord’s Supper given in the New Testament.
    9. g. Where is the Command: There is NO command or example of the specific order of or requirement of prayers to be offered prior to partaking of implements used in our observance of the Lord’s Supper given in the New Testament.
    10. h. What About Troas in Acts 20:
      1. 1. Verse 7 never specifically says the “Breaking of Bread” referred to the Lord’s Supper. It is only assumed that this “breaking of bread” implies the Lord’s Supper. It could mean a common meal or any other type of fellowship meal. There is simply no proof to support this assumption given in the context.
      2. 2. Verse 7 does not state or imply that the church in Troas met or observed the Lord’s Supper only on the first day of the week. Again it is only an assumption not supported by context.
      3. 3. Verse 7 does not state or imply that the church at Troas met or observed the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week. Again this is an assumption not supported by context.
      4. 4. Verse 7 does not state or imply that the church at Troas continued to meet or observed the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week following this event or even prior to this event. Again this is an assumption not supported by context.
      5. 5. Verse 7 only indicates that this event was done this particular time. This is the only true assumption that is supported by context and the only time “breaking of bread” is talked about in the New Testament in connection to the first day of the week. Matter of fact, there is no direct indication that the Lord’s Supper was ever eaten on the first day of the week in the New Testament.
      6. 6. Verse 11 (under the Roman calendar) would imply that the church in Troas actually observed the Lord’s Supper on Monday morning because Paul preached until after midnight.
      7. 7. Verse 11 (under the Hebrew calendar) would imply that the church in Troas met to observe the Lord’s Supper on Saturday night but was delayed because Paul preached until after midnight.

Conclusion:

Both, the Old and New Testament’s are writings that show the unchanging nature (purpose) of God. However, they are two very different guides in purpose, function, and scope.

The Old Testament was in fact, (the Torah) for the most part, a collection of laws (613 in the Torah = 248 positive and 365 negative) because it was the social physical instructions on living within the community of Israel as a nation and it was also the official religious boundaries of Israelite Nation: Though it also contained history, philosophy, and poetry it is primarily a book of physical restraint – Law. These laws covered religion, health, and society. The root base of all these laws can be traced to the Ten Commandments. The Old Testament is restrictive (mostly immediate punishable rules).

The New Testament is designed to influence thus creating a change towards ethical good (personal choice). Paul wrote that the restrictive physical law (of the Old Testament) died when Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of all effectively ending the old Jewish covenant and issuing in the new Christian covenant. Those with Jesus now have spiritual liberty from restrictive physical religious law. The New Testament is personal choice (heaven or hell).

Colossians 2:13-14 “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (NKJV)

2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (NKJV)

Galatians 5:1-6For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (ESV)

Galatians 5:13-23For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (ESV)

Hebrews 8:7-13 “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (ESV)

The New Testament is not a book of “Law” but a book on “Life Living” principles. Even though it does contain specific instruction, it is a far reach to classify the New Testament as a law book. The New Testament is a book of Spiritual guidelines, Spiritual guidelines of service to God through Jesus, and Spiritual guidelines service humanity. The majority of the New Testament contains ideas on how to resolve human problems of living among each other in a spiritual realm.

The New Testament is more correctly a record of advice and suggestions concerning life and living: From salvations specific directions, to general suggestions on daily living, and for ideals on lovingly treatment to others. People who attempt to force the New Testament into only one purpose of “Law” have the wrong understanding and perspective of the many unique purposes and will therefore; miss the true and wonderful message of the New Testament altogether.

There are not a lot of authoritative (punitive) commands directed in the New Testament. We are directed in just six ways:

  1. Direct edict
  2. Appeal or Urging
  3. Metaphorical inquiry
  4. Expressions of personal acknowledgment
  5. Declaration of personal circumstances
  6. Suggestions of practicality

Very few of the New Testament directives bind a condition or restriction on us unless they foster some standard for the advantage of purpose, which is explicitly made known within the teaching. There are many statements indicating advice (with and without clear stated reasons) given in the New Testament. However, we seldom follow them all. How should we honestly adjudicate which ones are demands of consequence unless God has clearly made this known? It is hard for us to ascertain so it is better for us not to be as inflexible as the Pharisees’. We must always look for God’s intent and avoid our own assumptions.

Guy Lewis, Payson, Arizona

June 18, 2010 – April 11, 2011

(Background: I am a retired naval criminal investigator whose task was to fully know and enforce law during my career.)

 

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3 thoughts on “Is the New Testament Primarily a Law Book?

  1. Larry, I do know that this post is “STEPPING” on traditional “untouchable” sacred cows, but it is the honest truth reviled within my studies of “What is God’s Will” and I do know also that most people will not have the willingness to consider that these thoughts are in fact valid. Hugs always, Guy

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