Question from a Christian About Law and Grace
by Cory Tucholski
A member of the Christian Apologetics Alliance recently asked:
Question: In the old testament God outlines an entire list of dos and do nots for the Jews to follow. Among them is dietary regulation (Kosher food=♥).
In the New Testament Christ says,”until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
Does that include dietary restrictions? Paul suggests in 1 Corintians 8, “But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. ” And Christ Himself says, “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’
So my question is thus, if Christ said that not a letter of the law would be removed until heaven and earth disappear and everything is accomplished but says also that what we eat doesn’t necessarily matter because it can’t make us unclean, is he contradicting Himself since in Leviticus 11 God dictates what Israelites were and weren’t suppose to eat?
I’ve heard this objection from 1000 different atheists, worded exactly the way this girl just framed it. What most people fail to take away from Matthew 5:17-20 is one little snippet in v. 18, which qualifies the otherwise sweeping statement of nothing in the Law will pass away “until all is fulfilled.” So, what is the fulfillment of the Law? Christ himself.
Christ fulfilled the righteous requirement of the Law, so that means that we don’t have to. We now live by faith, not by works of Law. Which means the short answer to this inquiry is, “No, we’re not held to dietary restrictions.”
The long answer is a matter of context. The historical context of Leviticus is a code of priestly conduct for the Aaronic priesthood. The letter to the Hebrews explains that Christ’s high priesthood is a heavenly fulfillment of that former priesthood–the Aaronic priesthood was a mere shadow of the heavenly intervention of Christ for his people. Hebrews 7-9 explains this idea more fully.
The historical context of Deuteronomy was a suzerainty treaty between God and the nation of Israel. When Israel ceased to be, and the final remnants of the southern kingdom of Judah was obliterated by the Babylonians, Deuteronomy lost its force. At the end of the day, these things have no bearing on us as Christians and we are free to disregard them.
But should we? Yes and no. If we try to live by the Law, we must live by every single dot and stroke of the pen, otherwise we become guilty of all of it (see Jms 2:10). That’s pretty oppressive, but it is true. Despite the contention of those in the Pelagian (and semi-Pelagian) camp, it is not possible to fully abide by the Law. If it were, we wouldn’t need Christ…
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