HUMAN LAW . . . Honoring the parameters of God’s commandments

See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it. “ (Reference: Deuteronomy 12:32 )

In studying the Talmud Jewish scholars would be very careful not to add anything to the passages nor take away (not one letter, not one symbol) from passage. But studying and understanding it, discerning what it meant, they did will great glee and sometimes with abandon! I mention this because at times Jews remind me of historic Anabaptists. And, historic Anabaptists remind me of Jews sometimes.

Historic Anabaptist Peter Riedeman wrote, “God did not wish to have heathens in his worship services, [Exod. 12:43; Ezra 4:1-3] nor did he wish his people to learn the ceremonies of the heathen. [Deut. 12:1-3] In fact, he threatened that if they did that, he would do to them as he had intended to do to the heathen. [Num. 33:55-56] For the same reason, at the time of the apostles, unbelievers were not permitted to join the believers. [Acts 5:3-13] Paul, too, separates the faithful from the unbelievers. [Acts 19:9; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1] Accordingly, we also wish in this matter and in all things, to be worthy to receive with him the promise of the inheritance. This is possible, insofar as it is in us to follow Christ as our Master. With his help we will keep his command and covenant, not turning aside from it to the right or to the left. [Josh. 1:7; 23:6; Deut. 5:32-33; 12:32; Prov. 4:27] May he give us and all others who wholeheartedly want it, his grace to do this, Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Modern Anabaptists/Mennonite also strives also to keep the boundaries of faith and Christian living clear and tidy. We had created for ourselves a faith creed/confession that outlines our commonly shared beliefs – at the time of its creation. But that was something written at least one generation ago, and this creed and confession reflects understandings that no longer the way some Mennonites practice their faith. And it has caused problems.

Humanity, no matter how hard we try not to, does add things to the bible when we read it. Jewish scholars might when they interpret scripture. The Mishnah & Midrash are the ommentaries (sort of) on the Torah that have been written over the years. But unlike Christian commentaries they are read as part of scripture reading instead of just used for study. Does this mean something is added to God’s commandments?

The historic Anabaptists added understandings when they read scripture for themselves instead of relying on religious leaders. Does that mean the historic Anabaptists added something to God’s commandments? Did the religious leaders of the established church of that time add something that should not have been? Or did they take something away that the historic Anabaptists added back in?

And what of other religious that are based on the belief of one God? Have they added or taken away from God’s commandments? Because the problem is, beloved, only the Almighty truly and clearly knows what what meant. Anabaptists/Mennonites then and now rely on the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit when trying to discern scripture. And that is a fine thing; but still, it is dependent on the discernment of human and so fallible beings.

I have no words of advise on this; no blessing that will insure that a correct and precise understanding is gained. All I can do is ask that the blessing of the Spirit be on your scriptural study and understanding. Selah!

To the Scriptures and Its faithful servants

“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness–the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:25-27)

Let me first say with all candor, I had approached this scripture with an incorrect interpretation. Fortunately I saved myself embarrassment and you gentle reader confusion when I realized my mistake and so started all of again. What did I get wrong? No, it is too embarrassing to go into. . . . okay, I’ll tell you . . . in my own way.

What Paul is saying here is that by God’s commission he became a servant and minister in order to spread the gospel. Where I got tripped up is that I read it as Paul becoming a servant to scripture, thereby placing Paul’s responsibility to serving the scripture rather than God. I did note that OUR view is that one is closely aligned with the other. But the paradox is that much of what Paul wrote BECAME scripture so he became the servant of what he wrote which is not necessarily all bad. But, I said, in this instance it was what inspired Paul that was holy and not what Paul wrote considering that Paul is a man/human as we are human. So obviously I had to correct my mistake.

But as I sit here in the shambles of my deleted words, I stop, think, and ponder. Have we, Christians, become servants to scripture, putting our interpretation of scripture in place of God? Paul was commissioned by God to spread the word of Jesus Christ and all that he represents. But what if instead of Christ – his life, death, resurrection, salvation, and hope for a world to come – we spread our own concept of that. Paul said he was commissioned to spread “the word of God in its fullness” – what if we just spread a slice of it, and moreover a distorted slice?

Being a servant for presenting, proclaiming, spreading (etc) the gospel is not something to be undertaken lightly I am sure Paul did not. But it is a worthy task, even if undertaken for only one or two people, or just for a day or two. And through our daily living we can also represent the message of God. Do not be mistaken gentle reader – we are not servants to the scripture, but servants to the Lord who inspired the writing of it.

May you gentle reader be faithful servants to our Lord as you are called and commissioned. Selah!