By Reverend Mark Hunnemann
Some folks have dismissed the Old Testament laws prohibiting occultic activity simply because they sincerely, but wrongly, believe that the Old Testament has been abrogated (done away with) by the New Testament. So, with one fell swoop, they throw out the entire older testament, and continue to engage in ghost box activity, EVP’s etc. because they believe that those laws were not part of ‘giving of the NEW law” in the New Testament. However, as an aside, they overlook the New Testaments condemnation of the occult.
Showing that the Old Testament is still valid today is a comprehensive task beyond the scope of this blog, but I wish to focus on one incident in Jesus’ life that shows how HE viewed and used the Old Testament moral law. I say MORAL law because theologians often distinguish between the moral law, civil law, and ceremonial law. Again, it is beyond the scope of this discussion to address this, as I have in an earlier blog.
Are there some difficult passages? Yes, but common sense can usually cipher out the issues that folks raise like: what about where it condemns using two kinds of cloth? Common sense is not THE law of theology, but it certainly is useful!
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Briefly, there are two ‘take-aways’ from this text. First, the entire OT is normative and applicable for today (though not always literally, as we’ll see). Jesus could not have stated it more clearly: nothing in the OT will be abrogated or abolished by His ministry. Certain things like the ceremonial law regarding sacrificices find their fulfillment in Christ’s once for all atonement, and are thus not to be repeated by Christians. But as we read the OT law about sacrifices and feast days we learn more about the multi-faceted nature of the atonement. In other words, they are still normative and applicable in how they teach us about the Person and Work of Christ.
Second, those who do toss out the OT law can expect some ramifications (see v.19) That is sobering for those who hold to the view that the OT law is no longer binding on Christians.
One last word of introduction. It sometimes takes discernment and common sense to tell which commandments in OT are literally normative for today, and are not seen as typology, ect. Again, all the OT is normative/authoritative and applicable (in some way) for today, but it is the OT moral law that is LITERALLY normative for today. Some examples of this would be the Ten Commandments and Deuteronomy 18.
Most people are aware that, when Jesus was tempted by Satan, He quoted from the book of Deuteronomy—in particular Deut. 8:3; 6:16; and 6:13. If in the midst of the most savage spiritual warfare, God in human flesh appealed to the OT moral law as the “Sword of the Spirit’, then surely it shows how important,significant and normative it is for today’s believers! What Jesus later taught in the same chapter regarding the abiding authority of OT law (see above), He ‘practiced what he preached’ in the temptation narrative. “It is written…” and He then quoted a verse that hammered the devil head on.
However, what you may not be aware of is the deep and abiding significance of the Greek tense of the phrase: “It is written…” Gegreptai in the Greek, in all three quotes…gegreptai, gegreptai, gegreptai! Satan knew the enormous significance of this word (translated into three words in English).
So, with each temptation, Jesus says to Satan: “Gegreptai…” and then quotes from OT moral law—Deuteronomy. It is in the PERFECT tense. What does this mean?
Well, to be more specific, gegreptai is-third person, singular, perfect, indicative, passive.
The perfect tense in this context denotes permanence of normative authority. Generally, the Greek perfect tense denotes the present state resultant from past actions. It is a completed act with abiding results. In other words, it (texts quoted from Deuteronomy)was written in the past but it is still in force; it is still the Word of God!
Do you see the fantastic ramifications of this? The Holy Spirit could have chosen to use the aorist past tense, but in all three replies Jesus used the perfect tense to emphasize to Satan, and to us, that the Word of God is alive and Divine. He hammered home to the devil that what had been written about 1.500 years before had lost none of its original divine normative authority.
Yes, it is very instructive that Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy, but it is even more so when we realize the full significance of His prefatory words, “It is written…” He was telling the devil, and us, that the written words He was uttering had a permanently abiding authority to them.
Hence, the notion that we can jettison the moral law of the OT in general, and texts like Deuteronomy 18 in particular, regarding occultic sin, is especially wrong-headed in light of Jesus’ use of the perfect tense when referring to the up-to-the-second normative authority of the moral law in the same book, a few chapters earlier.
The words are to be taken at face value at speaking God’s abiding contempt for all occult tools and practices.
I add this as a short addition to the reasons for why all Old Testament laws regarding attempting to contact the dead must be taken as valid and normative for all people today—especially believers.
Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.