The Bible Project has this really great overview of the book of Leviticus – you should really take the 7 minutes to watch it before continuing to read. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
“Why did we watch that Rob?”
I’m glad you asked. I wanted you to see that the Law of Moses wasn’t some mistake God made in the past, but that it had a real point and message to it. It succinctly sets up the crisis of how a sinful humanity is supposed to come into a relationship with a holy God. The Law of Moses provided a system that gave Israel the confidence to believe that they could live near God’s presence even in their imperfection.
But along comes Jesus and the Good News of the Kingdom of God – and Jesus fulfills all the promises made to Israel about the removal of sin by going to the cross, and taking all the consequence of our sin on himself – thus making a way into God’s presence that requires nothing from us except faith. It is a salvation and redemption by grace alone – based solely on God’s unmerited love for us.
Now frankly, this has been a struggle for the church all through it’s history to this very day. We don’t seem to track well with this concept. And right at the outset the gentile church in Antioch faced the challenge of a mounting legalism, which we’ll be reading about this Sunday in Acts 15:1-21.
Many scholars believe that the events of Acts 15 are the same that Paul described in Galatians 2:4-6.
Paul doesn’t mince words there. He calls these people spys, spying on the freedom that the church in Antioch was enjoying. They felt it was still necessary to obey the Law of Moses in addition to believing on Jesus. It was a Jesus plus gospel…Jesus + keep the law = salvation. That is the basic formula of legalism.
Legalism feels the need to impose a standard on others, as we see in the case of those who came to Antioch. Why do you suppose that is? When, if ever, have you been tempted to get someone conformed to your convictions? What was the result? Have you ever been on the receiving end of that kind of pressure? How did it make you feel?
How can we avoid this sort of trap? What did the early church do and what can we learn from their conclusion?
I’m really looking forward to this study – as a recovering Pharisee myself, I feel like this is in my wheelhouse!
Hope to see you Sunday!