Questions & Answers
Good News Magazine
June-July 1981
Volume: Vol XXVIII, No. 6
Issue: ISSN 0432-0816
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Questions & Answers

   I Peter 4:6 seems to indicate that the Gospel was preached to "them that are dead"? How can that be?

   The key to understanding this verse is in knowing the identity of the "dead" spoken of by Peter. At the time Peter wrote this epistle (ca. A.D. 67 to 69), multiple thousands of Christians had already been living according to the way of life that was preached by the apostles. In the span of time since the apostles' preaching began, some Christians had lived out their lives, died and were awaiting the promised resurrection. Many had suffered martyrdom at the hands of pagan civil leaders or unscrupulous religionists.
   So when did these "dead" have the Gospel preached to them?
   Notice that the word preached is in the past tense. Those spoken of as dead obviously had the Gospel preached to them while they were yet alive.
   The Bible clearly shows that "the dead know not anything" and "there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave" (Eccl. 9:5, 10). The dead cannot receive any communication whatsoever. The preaching is for the living, not the dead.
   The word dead in I Peter 4:6 may also refer to the spiritually dead. Jesus mentions such people in Luke 9:60. Paul explains further in Ephesians 2:1, saying that such people are "dead in trespasses and sins." Some who exist physically are dead spiritually because they have rejected the Gospel of the Kingdom.
   The Church of God, through its apostles, has been commissioned to preach the Gospel as a witness to the world (Matt. 24:14).
   The spiritually dead do not heed that message and remain both in ignorance and in sin. They choose to live and be judged by the standards men devise, rather than to "live according to God in the spirit."
   These individuals will ultimately be given an opportunity to receive salvation. This subject is explained in our free article, "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?" Write for it.

   Does Exodus 34:28 mean that Moses, not God, wrote the Ten Commandments?

   This verse is often misunderstood. Notice what it says: "And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments." Some have assumed the word he in this verse refers to Moses — that Moses wrote the Ten Commandments on the tables of stone.
   This assumption is absolutely untrue!
   In Exodus 24:12, God told Moses, "Come up to me into the mount... and I will give thee tables of stone...and commandments which I have written." God "gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God" (Ex. 31:18).
   Exodus 32:16 also states that "the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables." Moses broke these first tables of stone (verse 19). Then God commanded Moses: "Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest" (Ex. 34:1).
   Here God plainly said He would write them again.
   Near the end of the 40 years in the wilderness, Moses rehearsed in the ears of the Israelites the things God had done for them. In speaking of the great works of God, Moses said:
   "These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount... And he [God] wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me" (Deut. 5:22). Those were the first tables of stone, which Moses broke when he came down from the mount and saw the people reveling in idolatry.
   Moses then repeated to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 10:1-2, 4 the fact that God wrote the Ten Commandments again.
   God, not Moses, wrote the Ten Commandments both times and gave them to all Israel.

   What are the ordinances mentioned in Ephesians 2:15 and Colossians 2:14, which the apostle Paul says were abolished and done away?

   Many assume that ordinances mentioned by Paul refer to various elements of God's law. Nothing could be further from the truth.
   The word for "ordinances" in these passages is translated from the Greek word dogma, which refers to human laws and decrees — the "commandments and doctrines of men" (Col. 2:22).
   These human ordinances included both the restrictive talmudic decrees burdening the Jews and the ascetic, oppressive "touch not, taste not" ordinances bound on the gentiles of Colossae.
   Both sets of these human ordinances — Jewish and gentile — contributed to feelings of prejudice, animosity, suspicion and separation between Jews and gentiles who were being called into God's Church. These human ordinances acted as a "middle wall of partition" that Jesus in fact had abolished through His supreme sacrifice.
   "For he [Christ] is our peace, who hath made both [Jew and gentile] one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us" (Eph. 2:14).
   But in Paul's day many newly begotten Christians still suffered from the burden of their former teachings. Remember, the Jews had a "wall of partition" in the court of the Temple, which separated them from the gentiles. The threat of the death penalty hung over those who might transgress. On the other hand, the gentiles were under the sway and influence of pagan philosophers with their restrictive "blue laws" (see The Church in the Roman Empire Before A.D. 170. by W.M. Ramsey, Chapter X).
   Colossae was known for its ascetic society. The pagans judged their Christian neighbors for their freedom in eating the various meats ordained by God, for drinking wine and for keeping the weekly and annual Sabbaths in the joyous manner prescribed by God. Pagans were taught that they could receive release from their guilt by doing penance — through abstinence, fasting and even self-inflicted punishment. All such nonsense has no spiritual efficacy or benefit.
   Paul spoke out against these human standards and judgments. "Beware lest any man spoil you through [human] philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8)..
   Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins — to release us from the penalty of sin and cleanse our conscience from all guilt.
   He abolished the ascetic ordinances of the gentile philosophers as well as the Talmudic traditions, which were yokes of bondage. He made it possible for both Jew and gentile to become spiritual Israelites, children of God (Gal. 3:29), living in freedom under the perfect law of God (Jas. 1:25).
   Jesus Christ did not do away with any part of God's law. He said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17).
   Yes, to fulfill, to observe, to keep — to set us a perfect example as to how we ought to live. We are to "walk, even as he [Jesus] walked" (I John 2:6). The apostle Peter wrote that Christ left us "an example, that ye should follow his steps" (I Pet. 2:21).
   God's law is good and for our benefit: "Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, forever" (Deut. 4:40).
   Jesus Christ did indeed do away with the ordinances of man, but the law of God is binding on us more than ever. We are to keep it in the spirit as well as the letter. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:17).

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Good News MagazineJune-July 1981Vol XXVIII, No. 6ISSN 0432-0816