Update: I’ve toned down the rhetoric in this post.
I was with John MacArthur until the end of this post.
Most of it is focused on the tendency of many “young and restless” Reformed Christians to wear their beer on their sleeve–or, at least, their liking for beer and other alcoholic beverages. Or their love for a good cigar. Or profanity. Or tattoos.
I’m a former drinker, smoker, and cusser. I’ve learned not to get all legalistic over these issues, but I still struggle with Christians who are not just OK with these practices, but offer sympathy to you if you’re not.
I drank heavily for about 11 years, smoked heavily for about 17 years. I don’t like to be around people who drink now, or people who smoke. It’s not that I’m better than them. I just don’t care to see people get drunk or smell their cigarettes.
Anyway, Johnny Mac makes the case that using these practices as a way to exercise one’s “Christian liberty” is actually an abuse and can also be a stumbling block. At the least, it contradicts the idea that Christians should be separated from worldly priorities.
But then MacArthur–like many other Christian teachers–runs aground on “the law’s ceremonial commandments” as he continues on about Christian liberty:
Christian liberty also removes the restrictions of the law’s ceremonial commandments (Colossians 2:16-17)—freeing us from asceticism, superstition, sensuality, and “human precepts and teachings” (vv. 18-23).
The Torah’s “ceremonial commandments” are negative “restrictions”? They encourage “asceticism, superstition, sensuality and ‘human precepts and teachings'”?
God gave the Torah to Moses at Sinai. That is the Torah that includes the ceremonial commandments, which include sacrifices, the Sabbath, the feast days (such as Passover), and laws of purity. Would God also give us something that includes “asceticism, superstition, sensuality and ‘human precepts and teachings'”? That is what MacArthur is essentially saying.
It grieves me to see people who obviously love the Lord denigrate His Torah, the Law He gave to His people, Israel, to live by in honor of Him. In one swoop, MacArthur has defined several books of the Bible (Exodus through Deuteronomy, Nehemiah, Ezra, Ezekiel, Malachi, Isaiah, and the Gospels, to name a few) as promoting asceticism, superstition, sensuality and human precepts and teachings. Jesus Himself called the Temple, where much of the ceremonial law was carried out, “My Father’s house” (John 2:16). He wept over its impending destruction (Luke 19:41). He was angered by how the Sadducees treated it, allowing merchants on the Temple mount (Mark 11:15-17). He emphasized that the Torah/Law would stand until heaven and earth passed away (Matthew 5:17-20).
Christians who parade their alcohol and tobacco consumption, or show off their tattoos, irritate me. But Christians who misrepresent God’s word grieve me.
The approach offered by First Fruits of Zion is much more reconciling: The Law was and is for the Jew. It is still in effect for all Jews, whether they believe in Messiah or not. Gentiles were never expected to take part in its “ceremonial” aspects. However, they are invited. That approach preserves respect for God’s full revelation while acknowledging that Gentiles aren’t expected to keep all of the Torah’s commandments.