The Work of Honoring Paul's Gospel:
Holydays, Rituals, Symbols
Practical Implications of Paul's Gospel: Part
The Pauline Bootcamp: Session XII
Trinity Grace Fellowship, 7 February 1998
Pauline Bootcamp Index | TGF Home Page
§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:
- The Work of Mastering Paul's Gospel. This means the work of
progressing and persevering in knowing precisely the doctrines of Paul's
- The Work of Proclaiming Paul's Gospel. This means the work of
declaring accurately before others the doctrines of Paul's distinctive
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Mosaic Examples of Case-Law: Ex. 22:21-27. The examples include protecting
widows, orphans, foreigners, poor people's finances, a neighbor's coat.
The general principle is that people should not be taken advantage of,
especially those who are vulnerable. Examples not mentioned which can now
be adjudicated: lending an ox to a poor man, borrowing a neighbor's ax,
etc. Test the general principle by further Biblical examples: try Ex. 21:22-25
(the anti-abortion passage) or Ex. 21:2627 (the anti-slave-abuse
- Pauline Examples of Case-Law. Much of this outline is an exercise in
Pauline Case-Law. The reader can test for himself/herself whether the text
furnishes the requisite examples and whether the principles we claim from
them are indeed minimal.
- Opposition to Case-Law. There are those who oppose Case-Law; but there
is no understanding of any literary document without it. We assign meanings
to words, grammatical constructions, idioms, etc by this very epistomology
(methodology). No doctrine in Scripture is constructible without it, e.g.
the doctrine of the Trinity. Those who really oppose it are opposed to
using their minds to understand Scripture, and are therefore opposed to
Deut. 29:29, Matt. 22:37, etc. There is a frightful parallel with the Parable
of the Talents: the one who will not work, under the excuse that he does
not want to damage his one talent, typifies the Saduceean approach to Scripture---no
inference is allowed whatsoever because we might pollute the pure Scripture
with our evil reason---and the Saducees in the evangelical camp appear
to be legion and as yet unsaved.
§2. Prohibition Against Religious Surgery
- Israel and Religious Surgery
- Circumcision required: Gen. 17:11, Deut. 10:16, Ezek. 44:9.
- Surgery for religious reasons allowed: Matt. 5:2930; 18:9; 19:12
- 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.
- Pauline Prohibition Against Uncircumcision. Uncircumcision, using the
spater in a procedure called epispasm, is expressly forbidden:
I Cor. 7:1820, Gal. 6:15, Col. 3:11
- 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
- Israel and Religious Baths
- Ritual bathing of the priests: Ex. 30:1721; 40:12,3032,
Lev. 8:6, Lev. 16:4,24,26,29
- Baptisms of houses, clothes, times of purification (after childbirth),
etc (see references in [DS7]), and note Heb. 6:2; 9:10; 10:22.
- Baptism into Israel's future kingdom: Matt. 28:1920, Mark 1:3,
Acts 2:38, Heb. 6:2; 10:22
- 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.
- Israel and Religious Times
- 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.
- The observance of these continues in Israel's future empire: Ezek.
4047, Acts 2:1; 3:1.
- Pauline Prohibition Against Religious Times. The proof-texts are Gal.
4:811, 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:
- Christmas is forbidden (so no tree, presents, etc in the period right
before and including Christmas Day)
- Easter is forbidden (no bunnies, no eggs, no special Easter Day Cantata,
- Sunrise services are forbidden
- Mother's Day services are forbidden
§5. Prohibition Against Religious Places
- 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.
- Pauline Prohibition Against Religious Places.
- Since there are no priests (Rom. 8:2627, 34, I Tim. 2:56)
or divisions with the Body (Eph. 4:4), there can be no holy place since
such always implies the need for a distinguished priesthood.
- Since the Body inhabits the Third Heaven above the angelic hosts (I
Cor. 6:3, II Cor. 12:14, Eph. 2:6, Philip. 3:20, Col. 3:1, etc),
it has no holy land in this life.
- The Body is the Holy of Holies of God's Elect (Eph. 2:1922 (Greek
text)), it is a defilement of the Body and its Head to have a "holy
- 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
- Israel and Religious Foods/Food Rules. The Law for Israel is rife with
food rules of various kinds.
- Certain foods were forbidden at all times.
- Certain foods were required at certain times.
- Certain preparations were required of certain foods.
- Eating together was a demonstration of covenant relationship.
- Pauline Prohibitions Against Religious Foods/Food Rules
- There is no need of Case-Law here, for the prohibition is explicit
in Col. 2:1623 (cf. Greek text).
- 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
- 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. 44:1720).
- Pauline Prohibition Against Religious Clothes
- 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
- 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. 11:56.
- 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
§8. Pauline Prohibition Against All Religious Symbols/Acts
- Proof from Confession of Faith: Rom. 10:613. 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.
- Proof from Co. 2:21 in Context. No religious rule concerning handle
and touchhence no holy things, no religious rule concerning tastehence
no religious foods and regulation of foods by time and placeand hence
no regulation of times and places, etc.
- 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. 2:823).
- The following additional religious items are thereby condemned:
- Angel pins.
- Angel forms
- Protestant crosses and Catholic crucifixes.
- This negativity of Paul's gospel is due to the fact that Christ destroyed
all religious things with His blood for the Body of Christ (Eph. 2:1116,
Col. 2:1118), while at the same time, He established the religious
things of Israel for Elect Israel and her future empire by His blood (I
Pet. 2:21, Rev. 5:910 (Greek text)). Restated, Christ established
Himself as the sole priest for the Body (I Tim. 2:56) by the same
blood by which He established Himself as the High Priest, Israel as a Nation
of Priests (Is. 61:6, I Pet. 2:9, Rev. 5:910) to the Gentiles, and
the holy angels as priests over Israel (Rev. 8:14); i.e. in the Kingdom
program there are many priests, but for the Body there is One Priest.
Appendix: Brief comparison of approaches
to the Lord's Table