The Work of Honoring Paul's Gospel:
Holydays, Rituals, Symbols

Practical Implications of Paul's Gospel: Part III
The Pauline Bootcamp: Session XII

Trinity Grace Fellowship, 7 February 1998

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§0. Introduction. This session concludes the Pauline Bootcamp and completes that part of the Bootcamp dealing with the application of Paul's gospel. Hence it is the purpose of this session to finish the delineation of good works in this present, Body age begun in Session X. These three sessions, Sessions X, XI, XII, consider good works under these headings:

  1. The Work of Mastering Paul's Gospel. This means the work of progressing and persevering in knowing precisely the doctrines of Paul's distinctive gospel.
  2. The Work of Proclaiming Paul's Gospel. This means the work of declaring accurately before others the doctrines of Paul's distinctive gospel.
  3. The Work of Honoring Paul's Gospel. This means the work of obeying carefully in our hands and feet, our physical members, the doctrines of Paul's distinctive gospel.

It is the teaching of Scripture that Paul's gospel applies to many areas and behaviors of life, and it is our experience that nothing brings out more hatred and hostility than the observable, physical obedience to Paul's gospel, especially from those who both claim to be loving and kind and charge the true Body of Christ with being unloving and coldly dedicated to "head knowledge" of the Scriptures.

While the previous two sessions enjoined many positive things we are to do in learning and proclaiming the Body's Gospel, this session is at least partly concerned with the negative things we must not do as a consequence of the distinctive character of the Body of Christ. Restated, it is the purpose of this session to take up, and rejoice warmly in, the prohibitions against the following abominations in the Body of Christ:

  1. We are forbidden to have religious times or holy-days such as Christmas or Easter or artificially designated time for study; instead, we are to use time as convenient and appropriate for the ministry.
  2. We are forbidden to have religious places or holy places such as a sancturary or votive; instead, we are to make use of any common space as convenient and appropriate for the ministry.
  3. We are forbidden to have religious food or religious food rules such as abstinence from alcohol or the traditional, empty Lord's Table (or Snack); instead, we are to eat and enjoy in keeping with nutritional needs and self-control, and host the saints at the Lord Table with generosity and a real meal.
  4. We are forbidden to have religious clothes or uniforms such as a Sunday Suit or choir robes or robes of the clergy or the religious; instead, we are to dress honorably as in everyday life as we see fit.
  5. We are forbidden to have religious surgery such as circumcision or uncircumcision; instead, such surgeries are to be done only if medical reasons justify it.
  6. We are forbidden to have religious baths or washings or baptisms such as infant baptisms or believer's baptism; instead, we are to bathe when it is really needed or as personal hygiene would require.
  7. We are forbidden to have religious symbols or religiously symbolic acts; instead, we are to rejoice in the reality of Christ as our Head and engage in behaviors that are real, needed, and appropriate.

An outline of this session is as follows:

  • Principle of Case-Law
  • Prohibition Against Religious Surgery
  • Prohibition Against Religious Bathing
  • Prohibition Against Religious Times
  • Prohibition Against Religious Places
  • Prohibition Against Religious Foods/Food Rules
  • Prohibition Against Religious Clothes
  • Pauline Prohibition Against All Religious Symbols/Acts

    §1. Principle of Case-Law

    1. Definition of Case-Law. Much Biblical instruction, especially practical instruction, is not in the form of abstract propositions, but rather in the form of rather specific examples. Yet clearly a general principle stands behind the examples. It is our obligation to grasp the general principle so that we may apply Biblical principle to situations not explicitly listed amongst the specific Biblical examples.
    2. Rule of Two-or-Three. In every Biblical context where Case-Law is appropriate, there are at least two or three examples to generalize from. Restated, there can be no case law without two or three adducible examples which the context indicates are related. This is supported by the rule of two or three witnesses: Deut. 17:6, II Cor. 13:1, I Tim. 5:19, Heb. 10:29. The minimum two or three examples may be viewed as witnesses to the general principle standing behind.
    3. Rule of Least Generalization. In every situation, the proper general principle behind the Biblical examples is that minimally general or least general principle which covers all the Biblical examples; in mathematical parlance, the general principle is the "join" or "least upper bound" of the examples. Least generalization safeguards against unwarranted generalization.

    §2. Prohibition Against Religious Surgery

    1. Israel and Religious Surgery
      1. Circumcision required: Gen. 17:11, Deut. 10:16, Ezek. 44:9.
      2. Surgery for religious reasons allowed: Matt. 5:29–30; 18:9; 19:12
    2. Pauline Prohibition Against Circumcision. Circumcision is expressly forbidden: Gal. 5:2, Philip. 3:3, Col. 2:11. We are circumcised in Christ, and to be physically circumcised would circumcise Christ yet again.
    3. Pauline Prohibition Against Uncircumcision. Uncircumcision, using the spater in a procedure called epispasm, is expressly forbidden: I Cor. 7:18–20, Gal. 6:15, Col. 3:11
    4. Pauline Case-Law: No Religious Surgery. We have the requisite two or three examples. This means no circumcision by Messianic Jews, no religious mutilation of female genitalia by Nubian tribes, no cutting of hands or plucking out eyes by evangelicals, etc.

    §3. Prohibition Against Religious Bathing

    1. Israel and Religious Baths
    2. Ritual bathing of the priests: Ex. 30:17–21; 40:12,30–32, Lev. 8:6, Lev. 16:4,24,26,29
    3. Baptisms of houses, clothes, times of purification (after childbirth), etc (see references in [DS7]), and note Heb. 6:2; 9:10; 10:22.
    4. Baptism into Israel's future kingdom: Matt. 28:19–20, Mark 1:3, Acts 2:38, Heb. 6:2; 10:22
    5. Pauline Prohibition Against Religious Baths: I Cor. 12:13, Gal. 3:27, Eph. 4:5, Col. 2:12. This prohibition applies to Muslim everyday bathings in which prayers are offered up for specific body parts as they are bathed, to every brand of so-called Christianity baptizing right and left for some ill-defined reason (infant baptism, believer's baptism, etc), etc. Note that more than one baptism is prohibited, allowing case-law to work and prohibit all religious bathing. This is confirmed by Paul's Law that there be One Baptism.

    §4. Prohibition Against Religious Times.

    1. Israel and Religious Times
      1. Israel had specific religious times as described throughout the Law (Lev. 16, 23, etc): weekly sabbaths, monthly days, annual festivals and convocations, special times of the day.
      2. The observance of these continues in Israel's future empire: Ezek. 40–47, Acts 2:1; 3:1.
    2. Pauline Prohibition Against Religious Times. The proof-texts are Gal. 4:8–11, Col. 2:16, in order, in context. These texts forbid any pagan or Jewish religious time or day for the Body of Christ. The general, case-law principle is that there are no religiously set times for the Body of Christ as a whole or for any of its members, regardless of the source of the time or day (e.g. personal preference). For example, it is forbidden for one to decide that each Tuesday morning will be given over to prayer, study, and meditation in order to give God a day out of each seven since one must work Sundays as a fireman. Actually, this principle becomes the rigorous principle of "Universal Generalization" IF we define "pagan" to mean any religious rule we impose ourselves; in which case imposing Tuesday as the "Lord's Day" comes under the condemnation of Gal. 4 and all the Law and the Gospels as well. (But the justification of such a definition of "pagan" takes us back to Case-Law!) Further applications include participating in any of the external celebration of those times defined by others as having religious meaning or significance, all of which would subject Christ Himself to such times:
    3. Christmas is forbidden (so no tree, presents, etc in the period right before and including Christmas Day)
    4. Easter is forbidden (no bunnies, no eggs, no special Easter Day Cantata, etc)
    5. Sunrise services are forbidden
    6. Mother's Day services are forbidden
    7. Etc.

    §5. Prohibition Against Religious Places

    1. Israel and Religious Places. The various parts of Israel's Law (Moses, Writings, Prophets, non-Pauline New Testament) describe various holy places, Land, and succession of temples culminating in New Jerusalem as the final, eternal temple of the Holy Nation.
    2. Pauline Prohibition Against Religious Places.
      1. Since there are no priests (Rom. 8:26–27, 34, I Tim. 2:5–6) or divisions with the Body (Eph. 4:4), there can be no holy place since such always implies the need for a distinguished priesthood.
      2. Since the Body inhabits the Third Heaven above the angelic hosts (I Cor. 6:3, II Cor. 12:1–4, Eph. 2:6, Philip. 3:20, Col. 3:1, etc), it has no holy land in this life.
      3. The Body is the Holy of Holies of God's Elect (Eph. 2:19–22 (Greek text)), it is a defilement of the Body and its Head to have a "holy place".
      4. Case-Law implies there are no religious or holy places today. This means it is sin to have votives or meeting rooms designated as sanctuaries or altars of any kind or etc.

    §6. Prohibition Against Religious Foods/Food Rules

    1. Israel and Religious Foods/Food Rules. The Law for Israel is rife with food rules of various kinds.
    2. Certain foods were forbidden at all times.
    3. Certain foods were required at certain times.
    4. Certain preparations were required of certain foods.
    5. Eating together was a demonstration of covenant relationship.
    6. Pauline Prohibitions Against Religious Foods/Food Rules
      1. There is no need of Case-Law here, for the prohibition is explicit in Col. 2:16–23 (cf. Greek text).
      2. The Lord's Table is not an exercise in religious foods or symbols, but a real meal. See the Appendix for a summary of the reality and generosity of the Lord's Table in the local assembly.

    §7. Prohibition Against Religious Clothes

    1. Israel and Religious Clothes. Throughour Israel's past and her yet glorious future, the priesthood, and especially the high priest, was required to wear certain types of clothes: linen, mitre, ephod, breastplate, etc; this can be seen in Moses' Law and Ezekiel's Law (e.g. 44:17–20).
    2. Pauline Prohibition Against Religious Clothes
    3. Men in Corinth, who normally were bareheaded in society, were to pray and speak forth in the assembly in the same manner, without wrapping themselves in tallith: I Cor. 11:4
    4. Women in Corinth, who normally were veiled or had something on their head in society, were to conduct themselves in the same manner in the assembly, without letting their hair loose: I Cor. 11:5–6.
    5. Case-Law implies that there one must dress in assembly as they would normally. This means it is sin to wear academic robes in the pulpit or a priest's garb or nun's habit or Jewish tallith or choir robes or choir doilies, etc.

    §8. Pauline Prohibition Against All Religious Symbols/Acts

    1. Proof from Confession of Faith: Rom. 10:6–13. No religious act is allowed by Case Law in the confession of faith, and hence is not allowed. Such is not the exercise of saving faith.
    2. Proof from Co. 2:21 in Context. No religious rule concerning handle and touch—hence no holy things, no religious rule concerning taste—hence no religious foods and regulation of foods by time and place—and hence no regulation of times and places, etc.
    3. Proof by Case-Law applied to the previous conclusions obtained from Case-Law: if there are no religious surgeries and baths and times and places and foods and clothes, then there are no religious things or symbols whatsoever. What there is, is the reality of Christ as Head (Col. 2:8–23).
    1. Angel pins.
    2. Fishes.
    3. Angel forms
    4. Protestant crosses and Catholic crucifixes.

    Appendix: Brief comparison of approaches to the Lord's Table