Q – I was challenged by a friend, regarding the truthfulness in the Church. She basically doesn’t believe that the Church holds the truth and she was wondering how the ‘laws’ seem to change from Old to New Testament. She gave the example of how in the Old Testament, God seemed to allow a man to have many wives and in the New Testament, Jesus says that it’s a sin. How do I tackle this particular question? FYI – I love your blog!
So, where does the truth come from? Jesus tells us that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” – John 14:6 and that He is the fullness of the truth the Father wanted to reveal to us. Therefore, as Christians, we believe all we need to know about our salvation, our final destiny, and God’s nature is found in the person of Jesus Christ. This message of truth was handed on to the apostles to guard. We see such in the following passages of the Bible:
-“He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16)
-“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)
Therefore, we can rest assured that the truth is given to the apostles, because the truth isn’t just a set of teachings, but a person – Jesus Christ. Christ gave himself to the apostles and promised to be with them through the Holy Spirit. But, how did it get from the apostles to the rest of the Church? The same way – it was handed on.
-“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2)
-“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3)
The apostles were entrusted with the task of guarding the truth of the Gospel. This task was then handed on to the successors of the apostles and then to their successors and so on. The Church is the guardian of the truth.
The second question seems to be whether the Bible is trustworthy, because is seems that the laws of God changed. But, this is simply a misunderstanding of the Bible.
In the times of the Old Testament, the people were being led by God toward the truth, but He didn’t give them the fullness of the truth, because they were not ready for it. If the Father had sent the Son during the times of Noah, the people would not have been prepared to accept Him. Therefore, we can see the Old Testament as a school for humanity. It is a training and education in the basics so that we would be ready to accept the advance education and training of Christ.
When Jesus came, He revealed the fullness of the law of God. So, the moral law – the 10 commandments – was never taken away. Rather, our understanding of it was deepened (see Matthew 5-7). What was changed were those things that were not part of the moral law. For instance – Christ says this about divorce and why God allowed it in the Old Covenants:
“Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” [His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” – Matt 19:4-12
His answer to the question of why divorce is allowed gives us insight into the training that God was giving His people. But, God wants more of us. He wants us to live life out fully and with all truth, therefore He gave us the grace to be able to do so through Christ – both in His teachings and in each of our souls.
The same kind of situation happened when the law allowed for multiple wives. The Bible doesn’t answer the question of polygamy directly, but we can infer much from this situation. This was because the tribes and kingdoms which surrounded the Israelites allowed for the same, and they Israelites were not ready to accept the fullness of the law. Therefore men were allowed, for a time, to have multiple wives. Why? Well, maybe because there are more women than men (due to war, lifestyles, etc. of ancient times). Also, an ancient near middle-eastern woman would not be able to provide for herself and would need the support of a relative or husband.
In the new covenant of love that Christ reveals to us, we see that marriage is to be between only one man and one woman, because this relationship mirrors the relationship between Jesus and the Church (Ephesians 5) and that the two become one.
The new law is one of love and faith, not just rules.
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” -John 13:34-35
I hope this helps.