Did you know that some researchers claim that there is a missing book from the early days of the Christian movement? It’s called Christianicus. This book, which was supposed to be contained in the holy canon, was somehow ousted by a group of progressive radicals. They claimed that the laws, regulations, and restrictions in Christianicus were too contrary to the recorded teachings of Jesus. They claimed that there was too much similarity between Christianicus and Leviticus of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Unfortunately, this small progressive movement was out-voiced by the larger, more powerful fundamentalist group. Most early churches wanted Christianicus included in the canon. After all, it held all the rules and regulations for an orderly worship, specifying who can perform which tasks at which time and place. It laid out the plan of salvation in nice, clean steps that anyone can follow and obey. It also, according to tradition, included strict warnings that anyone who strayed from the patterns and teachings found within this document would have their names blotted out of the Book of Life.
So what happened to Christianicus? As the time for official canonization drew closer, the smaller freedom movement began to gain a lot of traction. When the documents were voted Christianicus missed the cutoff by a slim margin of votes. The document lost popularity, and eventually all known copies were lost to history.
And you must know that the above story is completely made up.
Seriously. I just spent about 10 minutes fabricating those paragraphs. There is nothing historical or factual about anything you just read.
But it sounds credible, right?
I read through Leviticus recently. The entire time I was reading it I couldn’t help but think how nice it would be to have a document like this for Christians. Wouldn’t it be great to have all the rules and regulations spelled out completely for us? Wouldn’t it be nice not to have the perpetual “worship wars”? Wouldn’t we rather know exactly what to do, whom should do it, and when, and where?
The fact it, we don’t have anything close to that.
Some well-intentioned men have throughout the centuries attempted to reconstruct the fabled Book of Christianicus by piecing together snippets of Paul, Jesus, Luke, and John (usually in that order). They search and study until one day – Eureka! – I’ve found THE pattern of worship! or THE pattern of salvation! It was here all along in plain sight. Anyone who reads these fourteen verses (pulled from different books and different contexts) can clearly see and understand this plan. It’s not rocket science!
No, it’s not rocket science. But it is bad exegesis.
The problem is we WANT a Leviticus for Christians. Some of us NEED a Leviticus for Christians. We have to know that we are right on every little detail, especially in regards to our Sunday morning gatherings. We have such a strong desire to get things right that we apply a phrase from Leviticus to just about everything Paul might say: “This statute is a command forever, throughout all the generations.”
Paul never said that. Paul never came close to making such claims. Paul never attempted to lay out the demands of the new covenant between God and his people – which is essentially what the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are. Only Jesus did that. He said, “This is the cup of the new covenant – my blood which is poured out for you.”
The thing about a covenant is that each party is expected to uphold their end of the deal. God rescued the people of Israel from Egypt and promised to care for them, prosper them, and lead them into the promised land. What was Israel’s part of the covenant? Read the last half of Exodus all the way to Deuteronomy. They had approximately 613 commands to keep.
Jesus made a new covenant. He would shed his blood on the cross, die for our sins, be resurrected, and grant us the same resurrection and eternal life with God. So what’s our end of the deal? “A new command I give you – love one another as I have loved you.”
Jesus fulfilled Israel’s end of the covenant. He kept the human side of the Law perfectly. The old covenant has been fulfilled. The new covenant, the lasting, eternal covenant only demands one thing on our end – LOVE.
God tried giving the people of Israel a Leviticus. It didn’t work so well. He DIDN’T give us a Christianicus. It wouldn’t work well, either. So let’s stop trying to recreate a document that never existed in the first place.
Love God. Love each other. That should keep us busy enough.