by Dan Jones
I keep seeing this same argument come up on the internet, and it’s about time we had a discussion on how to answer.
The argument goes that there are parts of the Old Testament that prohibit eating shellfish, sewing different kinds of cloth together, trimming the edges of your beard, and many other things that Christians don’t adhere to now. So, when we say that other things in the Old Testament are sins, we are accused of “cherry picking” what is and what is not permissible and we are called hypocrites.
In fact, a group called “Planting Peace” recently erected a billboard in Kim Davis’s hometown that says, “Dear Kim Davis, The fact that you can’t sell your daughter for three goats and a cow means we’ve already redefined marriage.”
Aaron Jackson, the president of Planting Peace, said that the point of the billboard is to expose how those in favor of traditional values are selective in which biblical laws they choose to follow.
First off, there is absolutely nothing in the Bible about selling your daughter for three goats and a cow. It’s simply not in there. There is a passage in Exodus (21:6) about selling one’s daughter into slavery, but it has nothing to do with the subject of the billboard and no livestock is mentioned.
The fact is this “controversy” was addressed very, very early in the history of the church—about 2000 years ago, in fact.
It’s detailed in chapter 15 of Acts and it occurred, not as a result of a debate about homosexuality or marriage, but about circumcision for the Gentiles.
The subject caused a “sharp debate” among Paul and Barnabas, and some members of the Pharisees contended that Gentiles could not be saved unless they were circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses. (That would be the shellfish parts, folks.)
The debate became so heated that the apostles and the elders called a special meeting to discuss the issue. (And we all know who much we fear those.)
The Bible says:
After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Verses 7-11 NIV)
The meeting fell silent.
Then, Paul and Barnabas stood up and told of all the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles.
Finally, James stands up and points out that the prophets clearly said that the Gentiles would come to be saved. And then he says,
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Verses 19&20 NIV)
And that’s exactly what they did.
So, there’s your “cherry picking” right there. Modern Christians didn’t decide which parts of the old Levitical law we Gentiles should follow-- it was decided by the very people who knew Jesus face-to-face, who walked and talked with Him for three years, who saw Him crucified, who saw Him rise from the dead, and who saw Him ascend into heaven.
There’s more, of course, on the New Covenant and how it differs from the Old Covenant’s many rules and regulations. As for the sexual immorality piece of the puzzle, it is clearly addressed here.
Galatians 5 has more on this subject and many are aware of Peter and the previously unclean foods being made clean in Acts 10—and of the previous prohibition against associating with Gentiles. There’s also a lengthy and valuable lesson in chapters 5-10 of Hebrews that explains how Jesus, being our High Priest, became the final and perfect sacrifice so that the ritual sacrifices of the Old Covenant were no longer necessary.
It’s important that when we answer people who have an agenda apart from God, that we answer patiently, kindly, and in Christian love.
I would appreciate input on how we should answer such comments with love and in a way that doesn’t involve using 800 words to do so.
If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. (Hebrews 7:11&12 NIV)