Monday, October 6, 2008

Wrestling with Contradiction

I believe that the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God. His Truth and character revealed to us through the writers of the books that compose it. Believing and knowing this to be true, I came to a perplexing point during my study last week.

While reading Acts 21, I came across the following passage:

"17In Jerusalem the believers were glad to see us. 18The next day Paul went with us to visit James, and all the elders were there. 19Paul greeted them and told them everything God had done among the non-Jewish people through him. 20When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul, 'Brother, you can see that many thousands of Jews have become believers. And they think it is very important to obey the law of Moses. 21They have heard about your teaching, that you tell the Jews who live among those who are not Jews to leave the law of Moses. They have heard that you tell them not to circumcise their children and not to obey Jewish customs. 22What should we do? They will learn that you have come. 23So we will tell you what to do: Four of our men have made a promise to God. 24Take these men with you and share in their cleansing ceremony. Pay their expenses so they can shave their heads. Then it will prove to everyone that what they have heard about you is not true and that you follow the law of Moses in your own life."

My initial reaction to this passage was of confusion. From what I recalled of Paul's teaching (especially to the early Roman church), he did teach Jews to leave behind the law. However, this passage implied that was not the case.

As I said previously, I believe the Bible is infallible. Therefore, I seemed to have this contradiction between what I was reading and what I believed. Let me tell you, that is not a comfortable spot to be.

As it was getting late, I was forced to head to bed, but I sent up a quick prayer to God beseeching Him for guidance; that He would reveal His Truth.

This next day, I began digging through the Bible searching for the Truth. This lead me first to a word-to-word translation (e.g., NKJV) of the passage I initially read in a word-to-meaning translation. Sometimes this is enough to clarify meaning and erase any false inferences I may have made. However, I was left with the same seeming contradiction after another reading, so onward I went to the place where I believed the contradiction lie: Paul's letter to the Romans.

In Romans 3, Paul discusses how people are made right with God:

"21But God has a way to make people right with him without the law, and he has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about...28A person is made right with God through faith, not through obeying the law."

These verses did seem to support a contradiction, but then I read Romans 3:31:

"So do we destroy the law by following the way of faith? No! Faith causes us to be what the law truly wants."

Aha! Truth was revealing itself. Suddenly I remembered Jeremiah 31:33:

"'This is the agreement I will make with the people of Israel at that time,' says the Lord:
     'I will put my teachings in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'"

Finally the pieces were coming together. Paul's teaching was consistent. He taught that we are not saved by the law, but by faith (Romans 3:22). However, our faith is guided by the Holy Spirit who writes on our hearts the desires of the Father (Jeremiah 31:33); we become the kind of people the law wants us to be (Romans 8:4).

My Prayer: Father, thank you for being patient with me when I wrestle with your Word. Thank you, Lord, for confirming your Truth. You are trustworthy. Your Word is trustworthy. I am reminded how easy it is to take your Word out of context, but I am thankful, Lord that when I seek your Truth, I will find it. Guide me Lord, so that my ways are Your Ways. In Jesus' precious name, amen.


*All scripture taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Funny, I believe I've heard this talked about in class or something recently. It's a hard balance between following the Word of God and following the law of where we live...but then again, isn't that in the Word of God, too?