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The Purity Laws Are Fulfilled in Him

From 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law by Tom Schreiner, as part of the answer to the question, What is the Role of the Law in the Gospel of Mark? 

The law no longer occupies the same status now that Christ has come. In the Old Testament anyone who touched a leper became unclean. Lepers were to reside outside the camp so that they would not infect others with their uncleanness (Lev. 13:46). Jesus’ healing of the leper, then, in Mark 1:40-45 is quite striking. Indeed, Jesus cleansed him by touching him (v. 41). Jesus could have cleansed him with a pronouncement, as he did on many other occasions. In fact, Jesus could have taken precautions to avoid touching the leper in order to avoid contact with the unclean, so that he himself would not be ritually defiled, for in the Old Testament one who touches what is unclean becomes unclean. But the new order inaugurated by Jesus is evident here, for when Jesus touched the unclean leper, Jesus was not defiled by uncleanness. Instead the leper became clean. In Jesus the power of the holy was such that his holiness consumed and destroyed the uncleanness of the leper. The story suggests that Jesus is greater than the Old Testament law, that the law points to him and is fulfilled in him.

We see something similar in Mark 5:24-43, where Jesus healed the woman who had a hemorrhage of blood for twelve years and raised a twelve-year-old girl from the dead. Mark emphasized that the woman touched Jesus, calling attention to it four times. (vv. 27, 28, 30, 31). The Old Testament clearly teaches that a woman who has a discharge of blood is unclean so that anything or anyone who touches her becomes unclean (Lev. 15:25-27). So it is quite striking that she touched Jesus. But again the power of the holy overwhelms and conquers and irradiates her uncleanness. Instead of Jesus becoming unclean, his touch made her clean. The old rules do not apply in the same way in the case of Jesus. The Old Testament also teaches that one who touches the dead is rendered unclean (cf. Lev. 21:1, 11; 22:4; Num. 5:2). But again, when Jesus approached Jairus’s dead daughter, he took her by the hand (Mark 5:41). Instead of contracting the uncleanness from a corpse, Jesus cleansed her and granted her new life by raising her from the dead. These accounts suggest that the law is no longer central with the coming of the Christ. Jesus’ healings and his raising of the dead show that the new age has arrived in his ministry.

To sum up in one sentence the point made in these two paragraphs, 

Now that Christ has come, the purity laws are fulfilled in him, signified by his healing of the leper, his touching of the woman with the flow of blood, and his healing touch of Jairus’s daughter. 

I almost finished this book while I was travelling, so I may be posting a review of it soon. If I can ever get on top of things in real life, that is. 


A Catechism for Girls and Boys

Part II: Questions about The Ten Commandments

47. Q. What does the third commandment teach us?
        A. To reverence God’s name, word, and works.

(Click through to read scriptural proof.)

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Back Again. Sort Of, Maybe

I got back from my unexpected trip to Minnesota yesterday afternoon. I picked up a nasty cold while I was travelling, the garden really needs to come in, and I’m scheduled for a bit of gum surgery this weekend. Not to mention that the house could use a thorough cleaning.

I’ll get back to regular blogging as soon as I can.


Blog Break

My dad passed away early yesterday morning. I’ll be travelling to Minnesota later this week and don’t plan to post here until I return home. 


The Cross of Christ: The Problem of Forgiveness

This week’s reading for Reading Classics Together at Challies.com was chapter 4, The Problem of Forgiveness from John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. This chapter tackles the question of why it is impossible for God to forgive us without Christ’s sacrifice for sin. Why can’t God just forgive us in the same way that we are required to forgive others?

Stott gives two quick answers and then uses the rest of the chapter to explain them more. Anyone who thinks it God can just forgive us without the sacrifice of his Son does not yet understand the gravity of our sin or the majesty of God.

The problem of forgiveness is constituted by the inevitable collision between divine perfection and human rebellion, between God as he is and us as we are.

In order to carefully examine these two things—the seriousness of sin and the majesty of God—Stott takes the bulk of this chapter to think through four biblical ideas with the reader. 

  • The Gravity of Sin: “Every sin is a breach of what Jesus called ‘the first and great commandment,’ not just by failing to love God with all our being but by actively refusing to acknowledge and obey him as our Creator and Lord. … Sin is not a regrettable lapse from conventional standards; its essence is hostility to God (Rom. 8:7), issuing in active rebellion against him.”
  • Human Moral Responsibility: “…Scripture invariably treats us as morally responsible agents. … Our responsibility before God is an inalienable aspect of our human dignity.” 
  • True and False Guilt: “The Bible takes sin seriously because it take humanity seriously. As we have seen, Christians do not deny the fact—in some circumstances—of diminished capacity, but we affirm that diminished responsibility always entails diminished humanity. … [T]o be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to know better,’ is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image.”
  • God’s Holiness and Wrath: God’s wrath “is his holy reaction to evil.” “God’s holiness exposes sin; his wrath opposes it.” Stott lists a few metaphors used in the Bible to illustrate for us that “sin cannot approach God” and that “God cannot tolerate sin.” First, God is said to be high, which the biblical authors use to show his transcendence (or “otherness”).  Second, God is far away from us, so that sinners cannot approach him. Then there are light and fire, two things that make close approach impossible. Last, there is the metaphor of sinners being vomited, showing that God finds sin repulsive.

Those who have a biblical view of God’s wrath and human sin understand the need for the cross. Our sin and God’s wrath stand in the way of our forgiveness, and some sort of satisfaction for sin is necessary. That takes us to next week’s reading, chapter 5, Satisfaction for Sin.