Updated: Jan 4
When Yeshua pardoned the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8), He was smashing the cultural norm of treating women as property. When He entered into an intense conversation with the woman at the well (Jn 4), He was breaking every social rule. When He healed on the Sabbath, He was purposely challenging the authority of the Pharisees. His words for them were harsh.
Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” (John 7:23-24)
My point is that Jesus had no problem challenging outdated and corrupt “policies.” But when it came to the moral code of the Bible, He went in the other direction.
Many today are calling for an upgrade: Bible 2.0. Some claim the original version is outdated. Rob Bell, the author of Love Wins, a book that denies the existence of hell, thinks the current culture is ready for a new Bible.
“We’re moments away. I think the culture is already there. And the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense.” Rob Bell to Oprah
Many of those who want to change what the Bible says (about so many sins) love the idea of Jesus. He is cool. He is a reformer. He is into social justice. Amen! I agree 100%! But when it came to morality, He did not soften the Torah, but intensified it. Indeed, like with the woman caught in adultery (we are still looking for the man!), He showed a level of mercy that was not common, but when He taught, He was downright scary!
We like to think of Jesus saying, “Hey dudes, you’ve heard it said, ‘Thou shall not commit adultery.’ But God understands that we are bombarded by images every day. Sometimes you can’t help yourself. Just make sure to say you’re sorry afterwards.”
Or maybe, “The Bible says don’t kill, but goodness…some people can be so annoying! Instead of killing them, just think about how good it would feel to strangle them!”
And, yet, that is not His teaching. Instead, He says:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matt. 5:27-28, 21-22)
Applied to the Heart
People wrongly teach that Yeshua softened God’s take on sin. But, in fact, He took every outward sin, and applied it to our thought life. Now, not just committing adultery is sin, but looking lustfully at someone is forbidden.
Some of my Israeli friends who are not yet believers say, there is nothing wrong with window shopping as long as I don’t buy. Not according to another Israeli, Yeshua.
I am pretty good at not murdering people, but Yeshua comes along, “Big deal…if you hate your brother, you are guilty of murder.” So much of Pharisaical Judaism was based on outward performance—like much of Christianity today. Don’t do this; don’t do that. But what about our hearts?
The writer of Hebrew paints a terrifying picture of standing before God naked!
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:12-13)
Jesus is the word of God. He is sharper than any two-edged sword because He bypasses the flesh and goes straight to the soul. When we stand before Him, we will be “uncovered.” He speaks of our “thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” revealed, not merely by being physically naked, but our soul will be naked. All will be revealed before a holy God. Not just what we did, but what we fantasized about doing.
Now, lest you misunderstand me, we are forgiven. Our sins are covered in the blood of Messiah. This speaks of the unbeliever standing on his own merit. Everyone is guilty. The only hope is Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice.
Culture Changes—God does not!
But here is my point: Yeshua did not come to soften the word of God. He came to apply it to our hearts so we would seek His mercy. This is why it would be silly to say the Bible is evolving with our culture. Here is something ironically funny: In 2008, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were against gay marriage. Now, Vice President Pence, arguably one of the nicest people on earth, is demonized by the left, for embracing the same position as Obama and Clinton in 2008. He is condemned for simply not being willing to be alone with a woman who is not his wife.
Yes, the culture has changed. But God has not. Yeshua absolutely brought us a greater revelation of both the mercy and love of the Father, but also the utter ugliness of sin. Things did not evolve into a softer definition of sin, but became more intense. If you want to make the suggestion that the word of God needs to evolve with culture, then it would need to evolve to a harsher degree. As we see in the Sermon on the Mount, it needs to confront the culture—not appease the culture.