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Dancing with the Scriptures: The "But" Boogie

Let us look at two passages that use the word “but” and the interpretations associated with them.

Before we start we need to have a quick English Grammar Lesson. The word “but” is a type of coordinating conjunction, also called a coordinator. It is a conjunction that joins two or more items ofequal syntactic importance, such as words, main clauses, or sentences.  Specifically, "but" presents a contrast or exception.  Not left, but right.  Not up, but down.  Not today, but tomorrow.

The English lesson is now over…

The first passage is Matthew 5:17.

Mat 5:17 KJV  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

The modern Church’s interpretation of this verse goes something like this: “Christ didn’t come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it so we don’t have to keep it…

Isn’t “not keeping” the law the same as destroying it?

Pro_28:4  They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.

Pro_28:7  Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous menshameth his father.

Pro_28:9  He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall beabomination.

So in essence the Church is teaching that Christ didn’t come to destroy the Law, but to destroy it.

That leads me to believe that what the Church’s interpretation of the word “fulfil” must be flawed.

This particular word in Mat 5:17 the Greek word G4137 πληρο´ω pleroo in the form of: πληρωσαι

πληρωσαι appears four times in the New Testament: Mat 3:15, Mat 5:17, Rom 15:13 and Col 1:25

Interestingly πληρωσαι appears nine times in the Septuagint.  The Septuagint or LXX is the Koine Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, translated in stages between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE in Alexandria. It was begun by the third century BCE and completed before 132 BCE. 

The use of πληρωσαι in the New Testament would certainly have had a meaning that aligned with the LXX.  πληρωσαι  appears nine times in the Old Testament: Num 7:88, 1Ch 29:5, 2Ch 13:9, Job 20:23, Psa 20:4-5 (2), Isa 8:8, Isa 13:3 and Jer 33:5.

The first three passages are of extreme interest to us, the words in bold are the English translations of πληρωσαι:

Num 7:88  And all the oxen for the sacrifice of the peace offerings were twenty and four bullocks, the rams sixty, the he goats sixty, the lambs of the first year sixty. This was thededication of the altar, after that it was anointed.

1Ch 29:5  The gold for things of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and for all manner of work to be made by the hands of artificers. And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the LORD?

2Ch 13:9  Have ye not cast out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods.

What do Dedication and Consecrate mean?

Dedication

DEDICATION, n.

1. The act of consecrating to a divine Being, or to a sacred use, often with religious solemnities; solemn appropriation; as the dedication of Solomons temple.

2. The act of devoting or giving to.

3. An address to a patron, prefixed to a book, testifying respect and recommending the work to his protection and favor.

Consecrate

CONSECRATE, v.t. [L., to consecrate, sacred. See Sacred.]

1. To make or declare to be sacred, by certain ceremonies or rites; to appropriate to sacred uses; to set apart, dedicate, or devote, to the service and worship of God; as, to consecrate a church.

Thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons. Exo 29.

All the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated to the Lord. Josh 6.

2. To canonize; to exalt to the rank of a saint; to enroll among the gods, as a Roman emperor.

3. To set apart and bless the elements in the eucharist.

4. To render venerable; to make respected; as, rules or principles consecrated by time.

Matthew 5:17 was not an indictment against keeping the law.  On the contrary - it was an indictment of the Pharisees’ abuse and their additions to the law - the Doctrines of men.

Using the definitions from above about let’s look at a 1st century understanding of what this passage was telling those who heard it.

Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to make it respected.

 

Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to restore its sacred use!

Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to give it protection and favor.

 

Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to be devoted to it!

 

Mat 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to set it apart and bless it!

Wow!

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The Second Passage is John 1:17.

 

Joh 1:17 KJV For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Wait a minute; this one uses the coordinating conjunction correctly!  That is what we have been taught isn’t it.

  • Grace is in opposition to the Law,
  • Grace supersedes the Law.
  • Grace makes the Law useless.

Well there is one HUGE problem: the “but” isn’t in the Greek texts at all!  the “but” was added by the King James translators “for clarity.” That's why the "but" is in italics. 

Without the “but” the meaning of the verse is completely opposite.

Joh 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Taking out the “but” makes Grace a compliment to the Law - not superseding it or replacing it!

Conclusion:

Words mean things.  Without the proper definitions of words and concepts, men will come up with any number of crazy ideas.  No wonder there are over 33,000 different Christian denominations. 

Scripture needs to determine our doctrine, not let our doctrine determine the meaning of scripture…

Apply these three guiding principles to every doctrine;

God’s Word is True! -

Joh 17:17  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Psa 33:4  For the word of the LORD is right; and in truth.all his works

Psa 119:142  Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, the truth.and thy law  

Psa 119:151  Thou art near, O LORD; and truth.all thy commandments

Psa 119:160  trueThy word from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgmentsendureth for ever.

God Never Changes! –

Mal 3:6  For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. 

Jas 1:17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 

Heb 1:12  And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

God’s Word Cannot Contradict itself! -

1Co 14:33  For of confusionGod is not , but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

Tit 1:2  In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

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I challenge you to ask yourself this question about your beliefs: Does the Doctrine of ___________.

  1. Contradict other Scriptures?
  2. Require God to Change?
  3. Make prior passages become a lie or of non-effect?
  4. Elevate certain prophet's or disciple's teachings about God’s or the Messiah’s?  
  5. Require certain rules of interpretation that aren’t applied to all scripture? 

When the answer to any of these questions is yes, will you have the strength to throw out that doctrine?

Tags: church, law, fulfil