Bill Muehlenberg

Who Do You Highly Esteem?

It is God who we should seek to please all the time. It is God who we should care greatly about disappointing or letting down. No human being can ever come close. Rock-star celebrities – in whatever arena – can only go so far as those we greatly admire and want to be like. All of them will disillusion us and fail us one way or another. None of them deserve our full and total devotion and admiration, no matter how great they are in a given area.

Probably most of us can think of someone that if we knew we had an opportunity to meet we would be all agog and flustered about. We would spend heaps of time and energy to properly present ourselves to some esteemed and greatly loved and admired person. Perhaps it is the Queen or some other world leader. It might be a Hollywood celebrity, or some megastar rocker.
Most of us tend to have those that we look up to, or idolise, or put on a pedestal, or almost worship and adore. We can sometimes almost consider some people to be demigods – so highly do we value and esteem them. There is nothing wrong – generally speaking – with having role models and looking up to some people that you aspire to be like, especially if they are worthy people to emulate.
All sorts of examples come to mind of this. A budding painter may have the highest regard for certain great painters both past and present – say a Rembrandt or a Vermeer. A young basketballer may look up to (in more ways than one) a Shaquille O’Neal or a Michael Jordan.
A wannabe rocker may very much adore a Mick Jagger or an Elvis Presley. An aspiring guitarist may almost worship a Jimi Hendrix or an Eric Clapton. A young poet may strive to be the next Shakespeare. And an up and coming actor may want to be the next Clark Gable or Tom Hanks.
Plenty of other such scenarios could be mentioned here. One notable example of big-time hero worship occurred last night on a television show I happened upon. It had to do with the world of cooking. A number of contestants – both amateurs and professionals – were set a challenge by one of the icons of the cooking world.
On this particular episode of MasterChef Australia these young cooks had their world rocked as they walked into the cooking arena only to find Marco Pierre White, the famous British chef who has been awarded three Michelin stars, standing before them. Talk about being awestruck.
They all seemed to be in shock and awe, trembling in their boots. One of the great heroes of the culinary world was in their midst. They were blown away and almost dumbfounded. And things got even more hardcore when they were told to cook something that he would be tasting and judging. And worse yet, it was one of his own dishes that they had to replicate.
Needless to say, upon learning of their task the contestants were now doubly shaking in their boots. Just imagine: THEIR own cooking would be tasted by this superstar chef. No one wanted to disappoint him. Everyone wanted to impress him and please him. There was so much at stake.
Read More
Related Posts:

Will You Not Grieve Over This

Are you, as a Christian, complacent, laid back, and couldn’t care less about what is happening in both the world and the church? If so, you may well need to repent and ask God to share his broken heart with you. We should be grieving heavily over all that we find happening, especially in these increasingly dark days. Woe to us if we do not.

God’s people are meant to image God. We cannot resemble him in terms of things like omnipotence and omniscience, but we can and should resemble him in moral and spiritual ways. As we grow closer to God, his mind should be our mind, and his heart should be our heart.
That is, we should rejoice in what he rejoices in. We should love what he loves. We should hate what he hates. And we should grieve over what he grieves over. The things that concern God should concern us. That is one test to see if we are growing in grace and becoming more Christlike.
Thus if God hates certain things, we should hate them too. That does not at all sound like something most folks today – including most Christians – would ever countenance however. Such talk is totally foreign to them. ‘Christians hate? No way.’ ‘God hates? No way at all!’
But both are fully biblical. There are plenty of biblical passages to support both. But I speak to this matter in much more detail here:
And here:
But in this article I want to look at another way in which we are to imitate, to mirror, God. God grieves over sin and evil and wickedness – and so should we. That God grieves is clearly taught in the Bible. Let me mention just a few passages here.
Way back in the early chapters of Genesis we read about how grieved God was over wayward and rebellious mankind: “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” (Genesis 6:6). Wow.
And God can be grieved over those he has chosen to use: “Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: ‘I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions’.” Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the LORD all that night” (1 Samuel 15:10-11).
The Spirit of God can be grieved: “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them” (Isaiah 63:9-10). And Paul quotes that passage in Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Jesus also was grieved by various things. In Mark 3:5 we read this: “And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”
God’s people also grieve over the things that God grieves over. Just the other day I again read about this in Nehemiah. Consider what is found in Neh. 2:1-3.
Read More
Related Posts:

Pick Your Battles Carefully Knowing God’s Will

Far too often we just rush out and do things as Christians without bothering to spend time with God first, seeking to determine what is on his mind and heart for us. That is not how believers should operate. At the very least, we need to take a rather broad biblical principle such as this to heart: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

There are plenty of things you can get involved in and devote your energies to. Then again, there are plenty of things to avoid and not be bothered with. Some things are worth doing and even going to war over, and some are not. The key is knowing when and where to engage, and when and where not to engage.
This is true in so many areas. It may mean getting involved in some need you come upon, or some dispute that you can enter into. It may involve a feuding couple who are asking you to intervene and take sides. It may be a social media post you just came upon which is really quite concerning, and you are keen to get involved and set the record straight.
And it can be on a much bigger scale. Should my church get involved in a certain political project? Should one nation intervene in the affairs of another nation? Are some belligerent neighbouring nations becoming so threatening and dangerous that some sort of action – maybe even military action – is needed?
We need real wisdom and discernment to know if and when we should get involved in all sorts of things, whether as individuals, or organisations, or as nations. Sometimes the matter may well be worth getting stuck into, but the timing is just not right. Good actions can become bad actions if not entered into prudently, wisely, and in a timely fashion.
Of interest, I actually had a brief dream about such things a few days ago. It went something like this: Someone told me about a sum of money someone wanted to borrow, and I was dubious and sceptical – even upset. I thought he was in financial need because of bad or harmful choices. I thought he would go and spend any money given to him in buying drugs or some such thing.
I was going to speak out about this matter, but I decided to bite my lip. A little later I learned that the reason this person needed the money was because he had earlier spent his money on helping others in real need. So I realised it was a good thing that I did not rush to judgment and speak out at the time.
So much of this comes down to trying to discern God’s will for your life in particular situations. Should I intervene in the intense – and potentially dangerous – argument my neighbours are now going through? Should I engage with what seems to be false doctrine being pushed on the social media?
There are plenty of general biblical principles to help guide us in knowing God’s will, but often seeking clarity on more particular matters can be hard to ascertain. But those broad principles are still worth being aware of and seeking to apply.
For example, the next time you are thinking about charging in to some online debate and going to war on the social media, we need to keep in mind passages such as this:
Ecclesiastes 3:8 [There is] a time for war, and a time for peace.
Proverbs 15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
Proverbs 26:17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his ownis like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.
We are too often ready to enter into a battle with all guns blazing, when sometimes the wise and godly thing to do is to hold back. Indeed, simply praying first would be a great idea! How often have I waded into some online dispute without first offering a quick prayer to God: “Lord, is this something you want me to engage with, or just leave alone?”
Read More
Related Posts:

Cultivating the Spiritual Virtues

God allows us to be in places or in situations where we would prefer not to be, but he sovereignly allows them knowing that these things may be the only way to cultivate the virtues; for Christians to grow and mature in the fruit of the Spirit. Next time you find yourself stuck in a traffic jam, or being abused by others, or having people speaking ill of you, or not getting that job or pay rise that you so desired, keep in mind that God may be behind such things. God is so very much concerned to develop our Christian character. And if that means allowing us to get into rather unpleasant situations, then so be it.

Christians want to be (or should want to be) better believers, and to be better people. In other words, they want to be more Christlike. That is a major calling for the Christian: to grow in maturity as a believer. It is not about just being happy but about being moulded into the likeness and image of our Lord.
The New Testament is full of these ways of thinking of course. And while we have our own obligations and duties in this regard, at the end of the day it is God at work in us developing Christian character and spiritual maturity. Consider for example the importance of the fruit of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 offers us a list of nine items: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Four general things can be said about them first, before looking at the fruit in a bit more detail. One, this is not about how to be a better person, or how to pick yourself up by your own bootstraps. These are fruit of the SPIRIT, and if you do not have the Holy Spirit, you will not have these fruit – at least to any real and substantial degree.
Yes, a non-Christian can sometimes be a nice person or good person or a patient person. But to see these fruit fully on display in your life as God intended, you must be connected to the source of that fruit. And that comes from God alone. As Jesus put it in John 15:1-6:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Two, these fruit stand in opposition to the works of the flesh. There are some 15 of these listed in Galatians 5:16-22:
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.
Three, I am hardly a role model here when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit. So when I write devotional and hortatory pieces like this, I am of course including myself in what is being said.
Read More
Related Posts:

Who is Really in Control?

We simply are NOT in control. But the good news is, a loving and caring and all-wise God IS in control. That means we can trust him, even in times of war. Even when a loved one passes away. Even when cancer strikes. The idea that illness and the like can be a wonderful teaching tool and a God-appointed means of bringing us closer to him while shattering all our false illusions is of course a truth that Scripture and the history of God’s people have long affirmed.

The real struggle throughout human history has to do with the question of who is in control – or better yet, who should be in control. Fallen autonomous men likes to think they are in control, and as such, they seek to take the place of God as the ultimate sovereign of the universe.
Sinful, rebellious humans think they are the centre of the universe and that they are in control. They certainly WANT to be in control. But the rightful ruler is not so easily deposed. It is God who is in control, and he is calling the shots. Sure, we are able to make morally significant choices, but at the end of the day it is the sovereignty of God that we all are under.
The fact that we keep forgetting – or refusing to acknowledge – that God is in control means that out of love for us he often seeks to get our attention by reminding us just how little control we have over most things. We plan a nice picnic in a park, and instead of the warm sunny day we had hoped for, a cold, miserable and rainy day happens instead.
Or the weather may be fine, but as we are about to drive to that park, we discover that we have misplaced the car keys, and they are nowhere to be found. Yes, human error has happened, but a God who is at work behind the scenes may be the ultimate cause of such things.
There is very little in life we have direct and total control over. Let’s say the weather is nice, the car keys are found, and the picnic with loved ones commences. We get stuck into a steak sandwich in a nice hard roll that we had prepared, only to find the first bite results in a very bad toothache – so much so that the picnic is cancelled and a quick trip to the dentist is undertaken.
God may well often allow such things for all sorts of reasons, but one such reason is to remind us that we are NOT in full control, and that there is a God in heaven who cares about us so much, that he is willing to rob us of temporary happiness in order to give us eternal holiness.
And often, difficult and trying times can be a major means of bringing this about. A time of war certainly brings us to an end of our sense of self-sovereignty and control. One minute you are planning picnics and sleeping in your own bed and having friends over and going to work, and the next minute you might be one of millions of refugees fleeing a war-torn country like Ukraine.
I just saw a quote on the social media by the famous US Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall which ties in here. I looked up the source of the quote and learned about this story. He was about to give a speech to the midshipmen at the U. S. Naval Academy, but changed his mind at the last moment, ignoring his notes and speaking off the cuff. An hour after his talk, it was learned that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor.
In that prophetic speech he said this in part: “War forces us to examine the very foundations of life itself. . . . What man refuses to learn in times of peace, God teaches him in times of war. . . . God permits war in order that we might see what sin really is.” It also teaches us how little control we have over things.
Everything changes in such a situation, and we quickly realise that the control we thought we had over life was just a mirage. Of course other calamities and tragedies such as illness or the death of a loved one also will help remind us of these basic truths. A particular illness may leave you without control of your own bladder. And a death of a spouse may leave you reeling as your world caves in.
When these things happen, we can either become bitter or better. We either re-orientate ourselves back to God, or we become even more defiant, angry and rebellious. And it is not just non-Christians I am talking about here. Christians need to learn and relearn these lessons just as much as any pagan does.
Read More
Related Posts:

J. I. Packer, Once Again

Here I want to briefly note three new books written by him or about him. The first is a work by Alister McGrath on Packer’s life and thought. And the other two are posthumous collections of some of his writings. If you love Packer, and/or simply love the Lord, theology, the Christian life, and Puritan and Reformed thought, these books are must adds to your library.

There are some folks you just cannot get enough of. If they are authors, you always want to read more from them – even well after they have passed away. And publishers also know the value of coming out with even more books from departed but much-loved writers.
For the believer there are some very well-known Christian authors who are continuously being mined by publishers, seeking to get the very last dregs out of their corpus. C. S. Lewis would be one obvious example. Just about everything he has written – including letters to correspondents and the like – has been resurrected and published.
So too with A. W. Tozer. All of his books have been published and republished, and then the publishing houses went through all his sermons, articles, and so on. One of the newest collections of his works features his public prayers. For someone who only had around a dozen works published during his lifetime, there are now well over 100 titles all bearing his name.
One could be a bit cynical here and argue that pretty soon a collection of his shopping lists might appear. Yes, I jest, but I probably would be the first one to buy such a volume if it were released! We just cannot get enough of some of these great Christian writers.
Another author plenty of Christians just can never get enough of is the late J. I. Packer. The famous English theologian, Christian leader, and author only passed away relatively recently (July 17, 2020). See my write-up about him here:
But some new volumes by or about him have already appeared. And that is good news for Packer lovers, of which I am one. I have a number of books on Packer, and at least 40 books written by Packer. And there are around 100 articles on my website about him, referring to him, or quoting him. So I am a big fan of Packer.
Here I want to briefly note three new books written by him or about him. The first is a work by Alister McGrath on Packer’s life and thought. And the other two are posthumous collections of some of his writings. Here they are:
Alister McGrath, J. I. Packer: His Life and Thought (IVP, 2020)
McGrath has already penned a full-length biography of Packer: J. I. Packer: A Biography (Baker, 1997). In this volume he looks further at his life, his writings and theology. A number of key topics and moments from his life are discussed in some 13 chapters.
Thus we learn further about his conversion, his love of the Puritans, his high regard for Scripture, his desire to always bring together theology and the Christian life, and so on. Let me share just one quote, from his chapter on “Theology and the Life of the Church.” Says McGrath:

Packer argues that it is never enough for us to know about God; true Christian theology is about knowing God – a relational and transformative process of knowing and being known, which sustains and informs the Christian life. The Christian encounter with God is transformative. As Packer, following Calvin, pointed out, to know God is to be changed by God; true knowledge of God leads to worship, as the believer is caught up in a transforming and renewing encounter with the living God. The ultimate test of whether we have grasped theological truth is thus not so much whether we have comprehended it rationally, but whether it has transformed us experientially. In an important sense, we are not called on to master theology, but to allow it to master us. This helps us to understand Packer’s intense concern with Christian piety, especially as this is expressed and sustained by the doctrine of sanctification.

J. I. Packer, The Heritage of Anglican Theology (Crossway, 2021)
This volume is about the history and thought of Anglicanism. It is based on lectures Packer had given at Regent College over the years. 
Read More

How Can We be Strong and Courageous

The action might be ours, but the strength is not. It comes from the one able to fully command it and us: Jesus as Joshua, the one who leads his people, and resources them beyond their ability to the fulfillment of great things. It is precisely in our weakness that he is strong and courageous, able to bring us into promised “new lands”.

These are trying times. Whether it is wars and rumours of wars, or global pandemics and questionable government responses, or floods, or droughts, or terrorism, or much more personal matters such as family breakups, or battles with cancer, these are very difficult days indeed.
During these tough times the strength of men may easily fail. Fear and uncertainty may be our main responses instead of strength and courage. Yet for one Old Testament character – Joshua – there was a pressing need to demonstrate exactly those latter traits.
The days of Moses were nearing their end. His was a remarkable journey. A Hebrew raised in the courts of Pharaoh, only to flee for some decades, and then return and confront Pharaoh about letting God’s people go. The mighty exodus took place under his leadership, and forty years wandering in the wilderness occurred as well.
Now it was time for Moses to meet his Maker. Joshua his successor now had to lead this large group of rebellious and disobedient people into the Promised Land. What a massive task. What a frightening challenge. Joshua would need all the strength and courage he could get.
No wonder then that seven times in two chapters we read this: “be strong and courageous”. We find this command three times in Deuteronomy 31 (verses 6, 7, 23), and four times in Joshua 1 (verses 6, 7, 9, 18). In the first instance Moses spoke these words to the people. The second time Moses spoke them to Joshua. The next four times the Lord spoke them to Joshua. And the last time it was the people urging Joshua on with this phrase.
A big job with big responsibilities requires a lot of strength and courage. So seven times Joshua and/or the people were given these words. The application for us today should be obvious. We may not be commissioned to go in and possess Canaan. But we all are often given important tasks from the Lord, or are facing major enemies or crises. We too need strength and courage.
The question is, how do we get this? Do we just muster this up ourselves? Or is it a divine gift? Or a combination of each? Let me draw upon some helpful commentators here to help answer these questions. And they all emphasise the main points found in these two chapters: the divine presence is our source of strength, but our obedience to his word is the key to our success. Both are needed.
Concerning Yahweh’s presence, we find in Joshua 1:5 these words: “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you”. Indeed, when God first commissioned Moses for his immense task, he had used the exact same words: “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12).
As Dale Ralph Davis puts it:
It is because of this assurance that Yahweh can exhort Joshua to ‘be strong and bold’ (vv. 6, 7, 9).
Read More

Biblical Passages for Tough Times

The more our world seems to be crumbling all around us, the more we need an unchanging and eternal God that we can run to, take shelter in, and depend upon. And sometimes it is best to say as little as possible, and just let God speak through his Word. There would be hundreds of great passages that we can cling to during such times as this. Here I want to just offer some key biblical passages that have come to mind of late.

During these deeply troubling times that we are living through, with not just Covid and all that has gone with it, but now Ukraine today, and possibly Taiwan in the near future, Christians can be quite anxious and worried. It is not just non-Christians whose hearts can be troubled and disturbed by these events.
The more our world seems to be crumbling all around us, the more we need an unchanging and eternal God that we can run to, take shelter in, and depend upon. And sometimes it is best to say as little as possible, and just let God speak through his Word.
There would be hundreds of great passages that we can cling to during such times as this. Here I want to just offer some key biblical passages that have come to mind of late:
Psalm 2:1-4Why do the nations rage,And the people plot a vain thing?The kings of the earth set themselves,And the rulers take counsel together,Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in piecesAnd cast away Their cords from us.”He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;The Lord shall hold them in derision.
Psalm 34:17When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
Psalm 37:1-2Do not fret because of evildoers,Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,And wither as the green herb.
Psalm 55:22Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 72:26My flesh and my heart fail;But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Read More

Let’s Just Love Jesus

As to loving Jesus, he made it quite clear that to love him means to obey him and to keep his commandments. It is not some emotional experience or some content-less feeling. It is a very particular sort of love: a love that says no to self and that says yes to God. 

Hmm, a nice sentiment that. What Christian would quibble over this? Isn’t loving Jesus the main game? Isn’t that all we need as believers? Well, sorta! Of course we are to love Jesus. But that is not the end of the matter. Both of these key terms – ‘Jesus’ and ‘love’ – must be given some actual specific content, or they will mean absolutely nothing – and may even lead us astray.
What exactly do we mean by ‘love’? And who exactly is this ‘Jesus’ that we are to love? These are very important questions indeed. The truth is, anyone can say they ‘love Jesus’. But not everyone actually does love – in the biblical sense of the word – Jesus, at least as he is defined and understood by Scripture.
So we must be much more specific and definite in what this is all about. For many people love can just be lust, or sentimentalism, or accepting anything and everything, and so on. And there are countless versions of Jesus – but only the biblical Jesus is the true Jesus.
As to loving Jesus, he made it quite clear that to love him means to obey him and to keep his commandments. It is not some emotional experience or some content-less feeling. It is a very particular sort of love: a love that says no to self and that says yes to God. See more on this vital truth here:
And all this talk about loving Jesus is determined by what the Bible teaches. Without Scripture we would not know what real love is, and we would not know who the real Jesus is. So we must be much more precise – and biblical – if we want to speak about loving Jesus.
A recent social media exchange helps to bring all this into focus. I trust my friend will not mind if I share this for the edification of my readers (he did kindly like my reply – bless you sir!). I had put up a post on one current topic of interest. It had to do with a former Qantas pilot who has been at the forefront of resisting medical mandates and statist overreach as he stands for freedom. I had said this:

Some Christians have asked about the champion freedom fighter Graham Hood concerning his being a Seventh-day Adventist. Is it a cult? Should we work with him? I would say two things about this:1. The noted cult expert Walter Martin was somewhat ambivalent here. He said this in The Kingdom of the Cults: “It is my conviction that one cannot be a true Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Christian Scientist, etc., and be a Christian in the Biblical sense of the term; but it is perfectly possible to be a Seventh-day Adventist and be a true follower of Jesus Christ despite heterodox concepts which will be discussed.” See my article on Ben Carson (also SDA and also someone we support) in the link below.2. This is once again about co-belligerency. We support Carson and Hood at least in terms of the culture wars, just as we supported Israel Folau, even though he is anti-Trinitarian. Theological orthodoxy is of course important, but there is a place for working with others in specific causes, such as in the pro-life, pro-family and pro-freedom wars (see the link below).

Read More

Lex Talionis and the New Testament

The simple truth is, we must ask this question and think carefully about it: What aspects or parts of OT law carry over into the NT, and which do not? Those of differing theological persuasions will answer this question differently. Theonomists, or Christian reconstructionists, for example will see almost all of the law carrying through, including the civil laws and their penalties, while other Christians will claim that only the moral law does.

Is Jesus at odds with Moses here?
In my previous article on this topic I noted how the Old Testament expresses the concept of lex talionis, or the principle of retaliation and retribution. I noted the three main passages on this, and sought to provide a larger framework by which we might understand these texts.
A major point I sought to make was that this principle was actually an improvement on that of many other ancient cultures in that it strictly limited personal revenge and sought to put crime and punishment in the context of a just social and political order. As we put it today: ‘the penalty should fit the crime.’ That is how we are to understand this biblical principle.
The Relationship Between the Old Testament Law and the New Testament
The topic of this subheading has been extensively discussed and debated over the centuries, and entire libraries exist with books on this and related matters, so I can only give the briefest of outlines here. For one short and general look at these issues, see this piece:
The simple truth is, we must ask this question and think carefully about it: What aspects or parts of OT law carry over into the NT, and which do not? Those of differing theological persuasions will answer this question differently. Theonomists, or Christian reconstructionists, for example will see almost all of the law carrying through, including the civil laws and their penalties, while other Christians will claim that only the moral law does. And not every believer is even happy with that threefold division of the law (moral, civil and ceremonial).
Again, whole libraries have been penned on such matters. As but one helpful discussion of how OT law fit in to the NT, see the discussion by Roy Gane in his 2004 NIVAC commentary on Leviticus and Numbers, pp. 305-314. Here is just one quote from that work: “Properly viewed within a covenant framework of love and grace, God’s law is not ‘legalistic’ and obedience to it is not ‘legalism’. People are legalistic when they put his law in place of his grace as a means of salvation.”
And Gane wrote an entire book on these issues in 2017: Old Testament Law for Christians. See the details of that book and nearly 40 others I list in the article I linked to just above.
Jesus and Lex Talionis
But the Christian will immediately think of the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew 5:38-42:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

The question is, do those words nullify what the OT taught about lex talionis? I think not. A major part of understanding what Jesus was referring to here is to realise he is offering a personal ethic for the individual believer. He is NOT saying there is no place for justice to be administered by the state to punish evildoers.
That is, if I am slapped in the face, I can turn the other cheek as a Christian.
Read More

Scroll to top