But solid food belongs to mature people (Hébrews 5:14)
“But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong” (Hebrews 5:14). The expression “perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong”, seems to allude to conscience. In another letter addressed to Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul gives a definition of the conscience which decides between right and wrong: “For whenever people of the nations that do not have law do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them and, between their own thoughts, they are being accused or even excused” (Romans 2:14,15). The apostle Paul defines in this text, a conscience in the general sense, as a divine gift for all of humanity. This awareness needs to be nurtured more specifically within the framework of family with the biblical spirituality or the will of God (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
The person who sincerely desires to please God by applying biblical principles may find himself faced with situations that are not always easy to make the best decision. This is why it is appropriate to take Jesus Christ as a pattern and mentor, in order to know how to make the best decisions, especially when biblical principles collide. This is why, first, we will classify the laws and commandments of God into several categories to understand the scale of priorities in the decision to be made.
Jesus Christ showed that the commandments and the laws of God have a point of convergence, love for God and love for our neighbour: “On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets” ( Matthew 7:12 (the golden rule); 22:36–40). Jesus Christ spoke of this same point of convergence, with different words, but which are aspects of the timeless commandments of God, based on love: “You have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23). Therefore, for each complex decision to be made, when a timeless (or eternal) principle (commandment) and a circumstantial law collide, it is the principle (the timeless commandment) that will prevail (we will illustrate this point little further).
Let us talk about the difference between a timeless commandment (principle) and a circumstantial law. In Genesis it is written that God forbids eating of the fruit of a tree: “But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). In this text there are two elements: the eternal commandment is obedience to God (not written). The circumstantial law is not to eat the fruit of the tree. Which of the two elements is superior? If the question may seem strange, it will allow us to always have in sight the most important aspects in the difficult decisions to be made because, in exceptional situations, a circumstantial law can collide with a timeless command. Of course, in this situation it is obedience to God that is most important, while the ban on this tree can only be temporary, since a tree is not eternal and moreover, at any time God could lift the ban.
There are timeless circumstantial laws (commandments) that cannot change (this time written). The best example are the ten commandments in Exodus chapter 20. Why are these “circumstantial” laws? When Adam was sinless, did he need these laws? Not at all, because he naturally did good, without any need to legislate (to write these laws) to guide him towards good conduct before God. It was the appearance of sin in the world that made these laws necessary (Romans 5:12). In Romans chapter 7, it is written that sin causes humans to act wrongly before God. Circumstantial laws act as indicators for doing right before God. However, when humanity will have no more sin, at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, these laws, although permanent or eternal, will no longer need to be part of a written code (or to be made explicit) because humanity will apply it naturally. Regarding the Prophecy of Jeremiah, about the new covenant, it is written that the law will be written in the hearts (or minds) of humans (Jeremiah 31:31–33). We are currently experiencing the fulfillment of this situation throughout the Christian congregation (Luke 22:20).
Finally, there is the provisional circumstantial law, for example the Mosaic Law, under the aspect of the laws regarding the sacrifices in the biblical books from Exodus to Deuteronomy. The purpose of this law was to show the necessity of human sacrifice, to redeem all of the offspring of Adam: “So the Law became our guardian leading to Christ, so that we might be declared righteous through faith” (Galatians 3:24). These sets of laws having served their purpose, they came to an end (Romans 10:4).
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