Disciple of Thecla
3/14/12 at 08:21 AM 2 Comments

God's Restoration of Humanity

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From the start of the Fall in the Garden, God planned a way to restore all humanity to Himself and to restore humanity's earlier condition of purity. Many of the Old Testament laws were transitional or situational to ease the lives of humans in a fallen world. These laws became a stepping point to restoration. The arrival of Jesus Christ brought a stronger restoration. Jesus set aside the situational laws such as divorce in favor of bringing humanity to an earlier and cleaner condition. In Acts, Jesus actively overturned manmade laws to restore His followers to the absolute laws that received the full authority of His Father in Leviticus. Some people claim that the divorce law is contradictory. Some people consider the vision in Acts to refer to an abolishment of certain sins, but this is not the case. Both scenes involve restoring humanity to an earlier condition of purity.

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?"

And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."

The Pharisees said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?"

He said to them, "Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." (Mathew 19:3-9)

When the Pharisees asked Him about divorcing for any reason, Jesus referred back to humanity's creation at Genesis. Jesus's answer conflicted with the law, and the Pharisees saw that well. So, the Pharisees asked Him why this certain law existed: "Why then did Moses..." (Mathew 19:7) and Jesus replied that this particular law was given "because of the hardness of your hearts" and He was changing this law because "from the beginning it was not so."

This scene illustrates that many Old Testament laws were created and permitted due to the hardness of human hearts, but that God's intention had always been to restore humanity to the original pre-Fall condition. And this plan for restoration was stated clearly elsewhere in the Bible that God the Father sent "Jesus Christ who was preached to you before whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since time began." (Acts 3:21)

Jesus spoke seriously about marriage and divorce in this scene from Mathew. The same teaching appears in the Gospel of Mark. The disciples thought His teaching was too strict, so Jesus repeated His seriousness: "Whoever divorces his wife and married another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." (Mark 10: 11-12)

So, this brings the question about divorce in today's society. Is it morally proper in the eyes of God? Many of the Old Testament laws read like case law about what to do in particular situations or in a particular culture. Sometimes, we need to follow these Old Testament case laws because of where we have fallen down to. The Europeans of the 1600s through the 1800s should have obeyed Exodus 21:16.  However, if we have matured past these situations and cultures, then they do not apply. God did allow divorce due to humanity's hardheartedness, but He never put the full weight of His authority behind it (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). God says "I am the Lord," when He puts His complete authority behind a law. The divorce law is only applicable according to the humanity's condition. What is the condition of humanity regarding marriage? Is humanity again hardhearted? If humanity has fallen back to a more corrupt condition, then the divorce laws again become applicable. God has chosen to deal with humanity according to humanity's level of development. However, God's primary goal is restoring humanity to an earlier and purer condition.

Another scene in which Jesus restores humanity to an earlier condition appears within the Book of Acts.

Then, [Peter] became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beats, creeping things, and birds of the air.

And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter, kill and eat."

But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean."

And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." (Acts 10:10-15)

Now, this can be interpreted two different ways, both appropriate. The first interpretation is that this scene deals with food. Obviously, food fills the dream. The Israelites had dietary laws concerning clean and unclean meat. The Gentiles never adhered to these dietary laws. God never condemns what actually has His approval. The dietary laws cover all of Leviticus 11. As God gives these restrictions to the Israelites, He says repeatedly that a particular animal is "unclean to you," meaning the Israelites. These foods are unclean to the Israelites, but they were never unclean in the eyes of God.

The rock hyrax because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves is unclean to you.

the hare because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves is unclean to you.

and the swine though it divides the hood, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you." (Leviticus 11:4-7)

Even certain fish "shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales - that shall be an abomination to you." (Leviticus 11:11-12)

God never actually called those foods an abomination. He merely stated that the Israelites should regard them as such and that the foods were an abomination to the Israelites - not to Him but to the Israelites. Compare the way God said "an abomination to you" with when He told His followers not to bring money from unclean sources "to the house of the Lord your God for any vowed offering, for both of these are an abomination to the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 23:18)

Food is an important part of culture, and the dietary laws had a symbolic value. All the clean animals kept within their own specialized niche while the unclean animals mingled their niches with other animals. The dietary laws represented Israel being set apart and not mingling with the ways of perverse people.

Now, Peter's vision has another meaning behind it. A few days after his vision, he met a Roman named Cornelius. Peter said, "you know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." (Acts 10:28)

Some people take this verse to mean that homosexuality and its behaviors are acceptable alongside heterosexuality and its behaviors, but this piece does not refer to the prohibitions at all. Any mention or reference to sexuality is absent entirely from this scene. The scene discusses neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality.

The notion of Gentiles being unclean is a manmade law, not God's law. The notion of Gentiles as unclean began in the time of Ezra after leaving Babylonian captivity. God punished the Israelites for adopting sinful and wicked foreign customs. The punishment resulted in the Babylonian captivity. After returning to Jerusalem, Ezra was so grief-stricken and guilt-ridden at Israel's mingling with foreign customs that he attributed the blame and wickedness upon foreigners themselves. Ezra's reaction to intermarriage (Ezra 9:1-15) stands in contradiction to Ruth, a Moabitess who converted to Judaism and became one of king David's ancestors.

In Leviticus, God commanded love and equality between Israelites and Gentiles: "And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34) And notice how He placed the full weight of His authority behind this commandment of love and equality between Jew and Gentile - a commandment that the Pharisees taught against.

So, the introduction of Cornelius in which Peter says "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." (Acts 10:28) is God overturning manmade law and restoring His followers to an earlier and purer condition. God reminded Peter of the commandment to love that He established in Leviticus following the sexual prohibitions. Because Cornelius had "a good reputation among all the Jews." (Acts 10:22), he certainly lived a heterosexual lifestyle. Even so, anyone trying to read some sexual message into Peter's vision and revelation is trying to find something that is not present. The passage in Acts has nothing to do with sexuality because there is not a single reference to sexuality, nor was there any reference to sexuality in Leviticus 19:33-34. The passage concerns only the uniting of Jew and Gentile.

The restoration of humanity to an earlier state goes even further because before the Patriarchs, the concept of Jew and Gentile did not exist. At one point, God did not have a chosen people. At one point, God was the God for all humanity. The reuniting of Jew and Gentle - spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles - began the restoration of uniting all humanity under God.

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