For you are a holy people to Jehovah your God; it is you whom Jehovah your God has chosen from among all the peoples which are upon the face of the earth to be a people for His personal treasure.
After the fall of man, including eating from the wrong tree, the murder of Cain, the fornication with the fallen angels, and lastly the open rebellion at Babel, God realized that mankind as a whole was unable to properly express Him and satisfy His heart’s desire. In response to this, God chose from the midst of mankind a man named Abraham. From Abraham came Isaac, from Issac Jacob, and Jacob’s name was eventually changed to Israel.
In order for God to gain a people that would serve as His expression, He chose a group of people to be separated from the rest of the world to be His “holy people.” They were chosen to be holy, or set apart, from the rest of the world, that God might have them as His personal treasure. In order for this separation to become apparent (for God desires a visible expression), God gave the children of Israel certain ordinances through Moses. These ordinances included things like circumcision, dietary regulations, and rest on the Sabbath. The question we must now ask is this: why don’t we follow these any more (and I realize that some Christians do, probably because this question is sometimes difficult to answer)?
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.
While it can be difficult to read the Old Testament as a Gentile, with such a heavy focus on a people that we seem to have no relation to, we must always have in view the original covenant God made with the father of the holy nation. In God’s calling of Abraham, there was mention of His true heart’s desire, namely blessing for not a select race of men, but for all men! God called Israel, but not only for Israelites. Through this covenant people, God was arranging something that would eventually become a blessing to the Gentiles.
What God was able to do with the Israelites, primarily, was bring forth Christ. In reality, nothing that God seemed to desire with the children of Israel succeeded. They did a fairly horrible job by anyone’s standard at keeping the law, commandments, and ordinances. They intermixed with other races often and lost their status of a “holy people.” They even divided into two separate kingdoms! The only real success God had with the children of Israel was bringing forth Christ. But what a success!!!
Now, through this covenanted people, God was able to enter into humanity that He might become a blessing to the nations. No longer would there be the need to be of Abraham’s blood line to partake of the covenants and promises.
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles out of faith, announced the gospel beforehand to Abraham: “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then they who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham…In order that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith…And if you are of Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.
One New Man
God’s goal, though it seemed to have changed, actually remained from Genesis 1. The Lord would not settle for just having a particular bloodline of men to express Him and have as His personal treasure. God wanted as many as were willing! Now, in Christ, this is possible.
So how does this relate to ordinances? In all honesty I don’t know of a better way to explain my train of thought here than to just write down Paul’s argument in Ephesians (forgive me if you wanted some unique material. I have none):
Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, those who are called uncircumcision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh made by hands, that you were at that time apart from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have become near in the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, He who has made both (Jews and Gentiles) one and has broken down the middle wall of partition, the enmity, abolishing in His flesh the law of the commandments in ordinances, that He might create the two in Himself into one new man, so making peace, and might reconcile both in one Body to God through the cross, having slain the enmity by it.
The ordinances were in place as an intentional separation between Jews and Gentiles. The Sabbath, the circumcision, the dietary regulations, and all the other Jewish ordinances that once separated were slain on the cross. It was enmity between Jews and Greeks. They served no moral purpose. And now, in Christ, there has been created One New Man.
When we, whether Jew or Gentile, believe into [Jn. 3:16; Greek word is eis; 1519 eis (a preposition) – properly, into (unto) – literally, “motion into which” implying penetration (“unto,” “union”) to a particular purpose or result.] Christ, we are joined to Him as the New Man in the universe.
Our New Unique Characteristic
He gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify to Himself a particular people as His unique possession, zealous of good works.
Doesn’t Titus 2:14 sound a lot like the first verse on this post? God still wants a people, a particular people, as His unique possession and personal treasure. This people still need to express God and be separated from the world. But what is our distinguishing characteristic?
But I say, Walk by the Spirit and you shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh…But if you are lead by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Our uniqueness and unifying factor as believers in Christ and members of His Body is the Spirit. Ordinances have no place in the one New Man. The only thing we have in this New Man is the Spirit of Christ. To insist on ordinances is to divide the Body of Christ.
A Word of Warning
While I’d like to exhaust another 1,000 words on this section, I will keep it very brief. Christianity today is littered with ordinances. While they may no longer be circumcision or obeying the Sabbath, ordinances remain. To insist on a particular style of worship, prayer, dress, meeting, etc. is to hold to an ordinance. To insist on a particular form of baptism, exercise of tongues (or lack thereof), Bible translation, etc. is to hold to an ordinance. To divide or meet according to preferences regarding practices is to hold to ordinances that divide the Church.
We should all desire to partake of the Spirit and be filled unto all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19). Whatever means or method you take to do so is up to you. I have certain preferences on how I partake of and enjoy Christ. However, for me to insist that others do so the same way is to make that means or method an ordinance. We should all be able to enjoy the same Spirit no matter the method. Whether you use forks, chopsticks, or your hands, the food is what really matters.