I think I can now better explain what it is I was trying to say in my “Over-Quoting” thread.
Let me start by setting the stage. God first gives Adam and Eve one simple rule (Genesis 2:16-17), but they don’t keep it. Next, along comes Moses and God gives the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:2-17 or Deut 5:7-21). They didn’t keep them very either. And so over the next decades, through Moses, God gave hundreds of specific instructions (ie Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy), to which were added hundreds more in the form of man-made applications and supplements, not to mention a massive religious infrastructure (the written and oral Torahs). And you know what, they still didn’t do a very good job of it.
So finally, God sends his son. The coming of Jesus accomplishes many things. First of all, it fulfills the prophecies of the Messiah (Matt 1:22-23). He also fulfills the law in regards to being the perfect unblemished sacrifice (alluded to in John 1:29,36 and Matt 26:42). And he does more, much more. He attempts to dismantle the religiosity that Judaism has constructed around the simple belief and basic message of God (through his parables and the discussions with the Pharisees) and he delivers the basic Gospel (John 3:16-17 and 14:6) which essentially becomes the new covenant. Jesus then gives us two basic commandments, loving God and others (Matt 22:37-40 and John 13:34-35), which encompasses the Ten Commandments. And he gives two commissions, “spread the the Gospel” (Mark 16:15) and “if you love me, tend my sheep” (John 21:17).
Now, along comes Paul. Oh, and how fulfills the the first commission! Yet he also called upon to fulfill the second, which he does in his letters to the churches and disciples. And he does so in such an incredible manner. Using Christ’s words and revelations given him by God, he delivers first a basic message and then specific instructions that fit the culture of the day, the specific issues that church is facing and even uses secular things of the day when discussing sin and evil.
It is his messages in all his letters that make his writing as meaningful today as when he wrote them. Yet (and this is big), somewhere between then and now, many in Christianity have focused on the instructions rather than the messages of Paul. And in essence have constructed a new Torah (both written and oral), the “rules” of Christianity. You think this is not so? Think again. Whenever any issue is dealt with, it is Paul’s instructions that are quoted, not the message. That we are to act, behave and be exactly as the ancient Jewish Christians did/were.
It is because of this fundamentalist and legalistic misinterpretation of Paul that Christianity is losing ground and it is what I object to. Fortunately there are many inspired pastors who can get to the heart of Paul’s messages, bring them to life in today’s world and truly tend their flock.