Christians must be careful to properly consider whether or not to the Law of Moses has been done away.† Those who claim the† Ten Commandments are still in force dismiss the fourth commandment ó the seventh day Sabbath ó without giving it any thought whatsoever.† Why is that?† Consider, for a moment, the following:
1.)† Jesus stated emphatically that He didnít come to do away with the law. (Mat.5:17)
2.)† The Sabbath commandment carries the death penalty.† Thou shalt not steal doesnít carry the death penalty; thou shalt not bear false witness doesnít carry the death penalty; thou shalt not covet doesnít carry the death penalty (unless it leads to adultery).† Why are these commandments still in effect if keeping the seventh day Sabbath isnít?†
3.)† Jesus said having faith and doing good works of numerous kinds wasnít enough! (Mat. 7:22-23)† We must also obey.†
4.)† Why did Paul tell the Colossians to ignore the local aesthetics who were criticizing them for enjoying the weekly Sabbath and other holydays of God?
To get a full answer to these questions as well as a complete explanation of Godís Law, and why it IS important for Christians today, please go to the Amazon.com webpage for the book shown at right Godís Law: The Neglected Element in Religious and Civil Life.†
To get a quick answer to your question, SCROLL DOWN
The church claims Jesus did away with the law; Jesus claims He didn't, as does James and John.† The confusion comes from Paul who seems to waffle, but doesn't . . . when you understand which of the four sets of laws he is talking about in any one instance.†
If you are a Sunday and Easter worshipper, please read the paragraph below; the status of the law is more important than you might think!
Jesus and the Law of Moses: Did Jesus Do Away With the Law?
Many Jews who can accept the Old Testament scriptures suggesting that the Messiah—a man to be born of a woman—would actually himself be God, cannot accept the idea that the Mosaic law has been done away and is no longer required to be kept. Make no mistake about the importance of Jesus and the law of Moses: It is this Christian teaching more than any other that causes them to reject Jesus as the Messiah. The position of Judaism on this issue of the validity of the Torah (the law of Moses) is adequately expressed below:
The abrogation of the Torah by the messiah is totally alien to the Rabbinic view. . . . The Messiah not only obeys the Torah, but also studies it and expounds it. In the days of the Messiah, the Torah will assume new significance and will be universally obeyed . . .
The Christian doctrine of salvation rests on the belief in Jesus who died on the cross to atone for the sins of mankind. This idea, of course, is contrary to the Jewish conviction that atonement and subsequent salvation are procured through repentance and faithful adherence to the Law. Christianity had to disown the Law, for, as Paul correctly saw, “if uprightness could be secured through the Law, then Christ died for nothing” (Galatians 2, 21)
The depreciation of the validity of moral action strikes at the foundations of Judaism, underlying which is the conception of law and justice.
The life of Christianity hinges, as it were, upon the nullification of the Law, even as the existence of Judaism is first and last predicated upon its preservation. Paul and his successors invariably chose the “Law” as the first aim of their attacks against Judaism. The realization that the “Law” renders Jesus’ death futile and the faith in him empty, has been rankling in and poisoning the hearts of Christians through the ages. Even in our enlightened age Christian theologians persist in denouncing and deprecating the Law, for Christianity can only justify itself and demonstrate its worth by disproving and annihilating the Law.
The clearest answer to Jews who would argue that Christians have rejected the law in error is, simply, that they are correct! Suppose for a moment you have been caught stealing something and are brought before the judge. Instead of sentencing you, the judge pardons you, and you are free to go. Once outside the courtroom, do you rejoice because the law against stealing has been done away with and you are now free to steal whenever you want? Did the judge really do away with the law against stealing, or did he do away with the penalty required of you for stealing? If stealing was unrighteous or immoral before you were forgiven for it, isn’t it still? Has the definition of moral and immoral changed?
No sane person acquitted of a crime would walk out of a courtroom thinking that the law making such behavior a crime had been done away with. Why then does Christianity think the laws that define the very righteousness of God—laws that were important enough for Him to send His own Son down to earth to die as payment of the penalty for mankind’s breaking of them—were done away with by the Savior’s death? Was it not the penalty that was done away with rather than the law itself? John Calvin, in his commentary on Romans 3:20, attempts to make this distinction between the righteousness of the law and the depravity of the flesh that can’t obey it:
He reasons from what is of an opposite character—that righteousness is not brought to us by the law, because it convinces us of sin and condemns us; for life and death proceed not from the same fountain. And as he reasons from the contrary effect of the law, that it cannot confer righteousness on us, let us know, that the argument does not otherwise hold good, except we hold this as an inseparable and unvarying circumstance—that by showing to man his sin, it cuts off the hope of salvation. It is indeed by itself, as it teaches us what righteousness is, the way to salvation: but our depravity and corruption prevent it from being in this respect of any advantage to us.
For centuries Christians have been taught that the Mosaic law—not just the ceremonial laws but the whole law—was done away with by Christ’s death for our sins, and that it has no relevance for them today, being a set of now-outdated guidelines. But Jesus and the law of Moses is not the only source of confusion concerning the Torah, or law of God, for Christians: Paul and the law is often even more confusing! Some of the most difficult and confusing scriptures of the Apostle Paul are quoted to “prove” that the moral law—the 10 commandments, and the statutes and ordinances that support them—were done away. If such interpretation is correct, then these scriptures directly contradict not only Paul’s more clearly written verses, but also the clear and unmistakable utterances of Christ!
Clear statements concerning the law’s validity
by Christ and the Apostles
The place to begin understanding Biblical truth on any topic—especially one as important as Jesus and the law of Moses—is with the clearer verses, for the less clear must not contradict the clear. Below are several very clear statements from Jesus on the law of Moses, as well as from James and John, concerning the validity of the law of Moses and the requirement that it be kept to the best of one’s ability:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 5: 17-19)
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Mat. 19: 16-19)
And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. (Luke 16: 17)
Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: (Mark 7: 7-10)
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (Jas. 2: 20)
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Rev. 22: 14)
Most of the more confusing ideas about the law of Moses come from Paul, so we will first look at some of his less confusing statements about the law:
Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. (Rom. 3: 30-31)
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Rom. 6: 14-16)
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. (Rom. 7: 12-13)
For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. (Rom. 2: 13)
The two quotations of Paul on the law below seem at first glance to be a contradiction, but upon reflection they present a position similar to that of James:
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. (Gal. 5: 6)
Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God. (1 Cor. 7: 19)
Although many more verses in the New Testament clearly support Christians keeping the law, the few above should be enough to convince you that any statement suggesting something different will be in distinct contradiction to the clear writings of Jesus, James, John, and even Paul, the latter being the source of most of the confusion over the status of the law of Moses.
Are there more than one set of laws?
Despite clear New Testament teaching that the law was not done away with by Christ’s death, thoughtful men continue to believe and teach that it was. Could they be confused between the moral law, which has been in effect since the very beginning, and the sacrificial law, which was added later by Moses because of transgression and which was done away with by Christ’s death on the cross? Or is it the moral law with its statutes and judgments that Christians say is done away? Let’s start with the sacrificial laws.
Judaism often lumps together the moral law with the sacrificial law claiming both have equal weight and that both are equally immutable. The Old Testament, however, suggests differently. God says that His sacrificial laws don’t carry the same weight as His moral laws, and if He could get obedience to the latter, He would not desire the former:
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me. (Hos. 6: 6-7)
Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. (Psa. 40: 6-8)
And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. (1 Sam. 15: 22)
Romans 8:2 states that the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” If it isn’t the moral law that is known as the “law of sin and death,” what law is? “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6: 23). By dying for our sins and removing the penalty for sin, Christ did away with the law of “sin and death” and the sacrificial laws that constantly reminded Israel of that penalty. The moral law itself remains holy and desirable, as Paul states emphatically, but the law that required man to pay the penalty for his sin was ended. As the penalty for sin has been removed, or done away, so too have the sacrificial laws which provided a constant reminder of the penalty for sin.
The covenant between God and Israel did not include the sacrificial laws
If we look carefully at the covenant God entered into with Israel at Mount Sinai, beginning in Exodus 19, we find that only the moral law—the ten commandments with its supporting statutes and judgments—was included in the agreement. Instructions for the building of the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrificial laws of the priesthood were also part of the law of Moses, or Torah, but were added after the covenant had already been ratified. Below is an outline from the book of Exodus of the words spoken by the Lord, words which were included in the "book of the covenant" and ratified between God and Israel by a blood sacrifice:
The covenant proposed and accepted (19:1-25); The ten commandments (20:1-26); Laws concerning slaves (21:1-11); Laws concerning personal injury (21:12-36); Laws concerning theft (22:1-4); Laws concerning property damage (22:5-6); Laws concerning dishonesty (22:7-15); Laws concerning immorality (22:16-17); Laws concerning civil and religious obligations (22:18 - 23:9); Laws concerning Sabbaths and feasts (23:10-19); Laws relating to conquest (23:20-33).
The covenant ratified (Exodus 24:1-8):
And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words. (Ex. 24: 3-8)
Continuing on in Exodus we find the details of the tabernacle (portable temple) where God would dwell with Israel and the specific functions and rites of the priesthood. While these were very important aspects of Israel's religion and were to be kept diligently, they were not part of the covenant of the "book of the law," ratified by blood between Israel and God! Once a covenant has been ratified nothing can be added to it or taken away from it without the agreement of both parties.
On the basis of the laws which he now presents to the people, Moses brings them into covenant bond with Jehovah. They promise to obey the laws as the very words of God (vv. 3,7), and they receive in return the assured promises of God (23:20-33). For this reason the code of Chs. 20-23 is called here the "book of the covenant" (24:7).
The Book of the Covenant includes in its narrowest meaning words from 20:22 - 23:33 but more fully, here, the contents of ch. 19, the Decalogue of ch. 20, and the case laws of 20:22 - 23:33. 
This book written by Moses, and containing the moral laws outlined above but not the sacrificial laws, was placed inside the ark of the covenant for a future witness against Israel (Deut. 31:26). These are the laws Christ was referring to when He said not one jot or one tittle could fail.
To say, then, that nothing of the words spoken by God to Moses in the Biblical books of the law was ever to be done away with would be incorrect. The tabernacle Israel constructed in the wilderness¾with all its elaborate details given directly to Moses by God¾was replaced by the permanent temple built by Solomon when the appropriate time came. Is it not reasonable, therefore, to believe that the sacrificial laws¾also given to Moses by God, but also not a part of the blood covenant between God and Israel¾were replaced by the permanent, once-and-for-all-time sacrifice of Christ's life for the sins of mankind?
We have just reviewed two separate sets of laws: the statutes and judgments of the moral law, which were included in the Old Covenant between God and Israel, and the sacrificial laws, which were not part of the Old Covenant even though they were considered within the “law of Moses” and were kept in Israel as long as the priesthood remained active. Now we will cover a third set of laws, a set that precedes both the moral law of statutes and judgments and the sacrificial laws.
What does it mean that the law was "added because of transgressions" (Gal. 3)?
When Israel exited Egypt they were tasked with obeying God’s voice: they were not given the written law of Moses until later. We are told that there was indeed a law that was added by Moses at some point after the Exodus (Jer. 7:22-23), and the reason it was added was because of transgressions. Its purpose was to be a “schoolmaster,” or constant reminder of the seriousness of sin, but it was only to be in effect until the arrival of "the seed," who is Jesus Christ:
And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. (Gal. 3: 17-21)
First, Paul says that the law that was added could not make the promise of salvation through Christ, already given to Abraham and his seed, of no effect. Why? Because it was given to Abraham as a promise from God that required nothing from man in return; that is, it couldn't be earned. If some were teaching that the law must be kept in order to obtain justification and salvation, then that would make the promise, given to Abraham by God years before, of no effect . . . and Paul was adamant that such wasn't the case! But if Israel, through Abraham, already had the promise, why then add the written law at Mt. Sinai? Indeed, "if the law cannot procure the gift of the Spirit, v.2, if it does not give evidence of possessing any inherent power, v.5, if no man is justified by it, if no man obtains life by its means, if no one is brought into the enjoyment of blessing by it, vv. 11, 12, 14, cp. V. 21, then what purpose was it intended to serve?"
We know from Romans 4:15 that "where no law is, there is no transgression." A law that was added because of transgressions must have been added because a law was being broken. The law being broken must have been the moral law since we know it was given to Abraham, and that he kept it (Gen. 26:5). Since we know that the primary focus of the law given to Israel at Sinai was the moral law, then the moral law must have been given to Israel in response to their breaking of the moral law! In other words, because Israel didn't naturally live by the righteousness of God as He had revealed it to them verbally when they came out of Egypt (“obey my voice,” Jer. 7:22-23), God formally tasked Israel with the letter of the law to give them a fuller knowledge of righteousness, and also a fuller knowledge of their shortcomings and inability to live up to that code of righteousness in the flesh:
The law does not make men sinners, but it does make them transgressors. That is to say, the sinfulness of mankind was not brought home to them by the promise, so the law was given in order that sin might reveal itself under a form in which it could neither be mistaken nor excused. Men "had not known sin, except through the law", for "through the law is the knowledge of sin", and "through the commandment sin" becomes "exceeding sinful", Rom. 7.7; 3.20; 7.13. The law was added to the promise, then, that conscience might have a standard external to itself, and that under the unmistakable and inexorable demands of the law men might learn their own powerlessness to discharge their obligations to God, and that so they might become convinced of their need of a Saviour.
Continuing on in Galatians 3:19 we see that the law was to be in force until the "the seed," Christ, came. This would imply¾and most have interpreted it such since the time Paul's words became scripture¾that the law of Moses, or Mosaic law (which is actually God's law), was done away with by the death of Christ. But this makes no sense for at least three reasons. First, in Chapter 1 we quoted numerous verses by Jesus, John, James, and even Paul demonstrating the continuing validity of the law in New Testament times and beyond. Second, we know that the law of the Lord is "perfect, converting the soul" (Psa. 19:7), so any fault in the Old Covenant had to be with man who couldn't keep the law because of the weakness of the flesh rather than with the law. And third is the fact that the focus of the new covenant is not the doing away of the law, but rather with man's enhanced ability to KEEP THE LAW by the power and righteousness of God's Holy Spirit that now dwells within the believer! Indeed, the new covenant is one of the writing of God's laws permanently in man's heart:
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I WILL PUT MY LAW IN THEIR INWARD PARTS, AND WRITE IT IN THEIR HEARTS; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jer. 31: 31, 33-34)
Clearly then it could not have been the moral law of Moses that was to exist only until Christ came and then be discarded, Paul must have been referring to the old agreement between God and Israel concerning the law¾the blood covenant between the two parties known as the Old Covenant¾that was to be discarded and replaced by the New Covenant. Paul intimates that he is speaking of the agreement concerning the law rather than the law itself in verses 19 and 20 of Galatians 3 when he suggests that the Old Covenant is inferior to the New because it involved a mediator, and was therefore an agreement between two parties requiring each to do something ("now a mediator is not a mediator of one"), rather than a unilateral act of God ("but God is one") in favor of man. The new covenant, then, is a covenant with an unconditional promise by God to man of salvation by faith; a covenant with the better promises of righteousness, justification, and salvation; a covenant wherein the righteousness and holy nature of God are literally created within man by means of the Holy Spirit such that it actually changes man's nature from human to divine. This New Covenant is superior to the Old not because the Old was defective, but because of man's weakness and inability to keep it. In this way the law becomes the ministration of death, and kills, because of man's inability to obey the law and keep his end of the covenant, which earns him the death penalty. As Lightfoot points out, the New Covenant is superior to the Old in at least four ways:
Had the law then no purpose? Yes: but its very purpose, its whole character and history, betray its inferiority to the dispensation of grace. In four points this inferiority is seen. First, Instead of justifying it condemns, instead of giving life it kills: it was added to reveal and multiply transgressions. Secondly; It was but temporary; when the seed came to whom the promise was given, it was annulled. Thirdly; It did not come direct from God to man. There was a double interposition, a two fold mediation, between the giver and the recipient. There were the angels, who administered it as God's instruments; who delivered it to man. Fourthly; As follows from the idea of mediation, it was of the nature of a contract, depending for its fulfillment on the observance of its conditions by the two contracting parties. Not so the promise, which, proceeding from the sole fiat of God, is unconditional and unchangeable.
I would add to Lightfoot's four reasons for the superiority of the New Covenant a fifth: the New Covenant offers a better promise than the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant offered physical blessings in return for man's effort to keep the law; the new covenant offers spiritual blessings, including eternal life, and God will do the works for man through His freely-given Holy Spirit . . . if man will simply believe and trust God!
So the law remains "holy, desirable, and good," while the old relationship between the law and man (Old Covenant)¾where no man is justified before God by obedience to the law (Job 15:14; 25:4, Psa. 143:2)¾is replaced by a new and better relationship (New Covenant) where the righteousness of the law is written on man's heart, and where justification is the free gift of God through the Holy Spirit, and not of works, lest any man should boast.
Paul answers his own riddle
Fortunately for those of us who ponder and try to make sense out of his writings, Paul has actually answered the mystery concerning the law of Moses we are trying to unravel; not as clearly as we would like, but clearly enough that we can start to understand how a code of laws can be both abolished and established at the same time. His explanation is revealed in a twelve word parenthetical phrase in the book of 1 Corinthians; added, it appears, almost as an afterthought.
In 1 Corinthians 9 beginning in verse 17, Paul is explaining his habit of conforming to the customs of groups he is trying to persuade about the gospel of Jesus Christ. When he spoke with Jews, for example, he was careful to observe their laws and customs. Also, Paul spoke to the Jews in a certain legalistic tone and had to present faith, as well as Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins, in a way consistent with their more extensive knowledge of the Old Testament. Why? Because if he didn’t he would offend them and their minds would immediately close to his message—no matter how eloquently he delivered it. Similarly, so as not to offend and turn away his gentile audiences, when Paul spoke to gentiles who were not keepers of either the Mosaic Law or Jewish customs, he himself did not observe Jewish customs or traditions that would offend or seem foreign to them. His tone and manner of presentation to gentiles were also different: less focused on the law and legalism and more focused on love, faith, and Jesus as Lord and Savior.
But when he is writing here about being “without law” to gentiles, Paul feels the need to clarify his position lest some of his readers mistakenly think he is claiming to be without any set of legal guidelines. So in verse 21 he proclaims that just because he is not subject to the Law of Moses it doesn’t mean he is “without law.” He is under (Greek: subject to) the Law of Christ:
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. (1Co. 9:20-21)
In Romans 7 we also find Paul talking about release from the “old law,” or written Law of Moses, but again he is careful to add that Christians are not without law: we should serve the spirit of the law:
But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (Rom. 7:6)
In the verses quoted above, Paul is suggesting that he is not “under” the Mosaic Law, but rather he is “under” the Law of Christ. While this suggests that the Mosaic Law is done away, we know from verses such as Matt. 5:17-18, 1 Cor. 7:19, and Rev. 12:17 that the Mosaic Law must remain a part of the New Covenant: after all, the primary purpose of the New Covenant is to enable mankind to KEEP God’s law, not to abolish it. So if the written code of the Mosaic Law is no longer the direct standard of conduct for Christians in the New Covenant, it must therefore be the foundation upon which the Law of Christ—the new standard of conduct—is built. Jesus’ teachings on the Law of Christ offer convincing evidence that this is exactly where the Mosaic Law “went.”
Jesus and the Law: What is the Law of Christ (also known as the Law of Love)?
Modern Christians are eager to get out from under the Mosaic Law and be free to serve Christ. But in their zeal to be free of Moses’ requirements they don’t bother to fully understand Jesus’ requirements. The best way to summarize the “Law of Christ” is to say it is the Mosaic Law amplified, extended, and intensified. The Law of Moses regulated actions and behavior; the Law of Christ regulates the attitudes and thoughts that precede actions and behavior, and thereby became known as the Law of Love:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (Mat. 5:21-22)
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Mat. 5:27-28)
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication [read as immorality], causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Mat. 5:31-37)
Notice with Jesus and the law of Moses that in each case Jesus takes a commandment from the Mosaic Law, or law of Moses, and expands it. He is not reversing or eliminating any of these laws; neither is He adding additional laws to them. Rather than releasing his disciples from the law of Moses or abrogating the law of the Torah in any way, Jesus is amplifying and clarifying all! In most cases, such as in adultery and its precursor, lust, Jesus’ amplifying intensified the law; in others, such as the Sabbath, His amplifying released persons from a lengthy list of do’s and don’ts the Pharisees had added to the simple written command to rest and rejoice! In each case, however, Jesus’ amplification provided the clarification necessary to understand the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.
Moreover, we note that with Jesus and the law His expansions on the law go beyond just the Ten Commandments. In His comments on divorce and on swearing oaths Jesus is expanding on statutes of the law. And what is Jesus’ position on the statutes and judgments of the law that support the Ten Commandments? According to Jesus, not one single letter of the Mosaic Law as written in the Old Covenant shall be “done away” until all things are fulfilled:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil [Greek: to make full, to complete, to accomplish]. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Mat. 5:17-18)
Notice the meaning of the Greek word translated “fulfill” in Mat. 5:17: to “make full,” meaning to enhance or magnify; to “complete,” or to provide understanding that is missing; and to “accomplish,” that is, to do or finish the task.
Jesus’ position on the law in Matthew 5:17-18 is also consistent with the Old Testament:
Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. (Deu. 4:1-2)
The law of Christ, then, is the spiritual extension of, and amplification of, “the perfect law of love” as revealed to Moses by God on Mount Sinai and which became known as the law of Moses.
What happened to the Mosaic Law?
So the letter of the law is not “done away” by the Spirit of the law, but rather is superseded by it. Every “jot and tittle” of the letter of the law, therefore, makes up a part of the foundation upon which rests the Spirit of the law—the Law of Christ. How can this be so? Because the “letter of the law” of Moses outlined actions necessary to keep the anticipated “Spirit of the law” of love, the Law of Christ. One loves his or her neighbor by not stealing from him, not removing the boundary marker on his property, not raping or seducing his daughter, not coveting his wife, not allowing his ox to get loose and gore him, etc., etc. So the letter of the Mosaic Law is the righteous behavior that results from conforming to the Spirit of the “law of love” as revealed by Christ. Through the Mosaic Law we see dimly the righteous demands of God. But when Christ came He shed additional light on those righteous demands allowing us to see more clearly. For example, when God commands “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” what He really wants is for us to overcome even the desire for another person’s spouse. If we overcome the desire, we automatically overcome the act itself!
It is no different with the statutes and judgments of the law. The Letter of the Law demands we build a protective wall or railing around our roof when building a new house so workers don’t fall off (Deut. 22:8). The Spirit of the Law, or law of love, demands we go further: we must do all we can to ensure the safety of others while they are on our property no matter what the situation. This is the “additional light” the Spirit of the Law sheds on the Letter of the Law, and why its demands are more rigorous. Even though some of the statutes and judgments of God’s law appear to be specific to Israel and her ancient culture, Christians are clearly obliged to obey the spiritual or moral principles that underlie them, principles that are unchanging and common to all cultures and times. This is the aspect of the law Paul refers to in Romans 2:14-15 that is universal and obeyed by people of all nations . . . even those who have never heard of the Mosaic Law. The law of love, then, is universal.
As you read Paul’s writings your interpretive powers may become stretched tempting you to conclude that the Mosaic Law has been “done away”; you must resist this temptation. You must, rather, remember the argument in the previous paragraph: the role of the Mosaic Law may have been changed in the New Covenant, but under no circumstances can it be true that the law has been “done away,” for Jesus is adamant that it has not! Remember also that the purpose of the New Covenant is to enable man to KEEP God’s law, not to abolish it. In fact, the Law of Moses is summed up in the Torah almost identically to the Law of Christ:
Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. (Lev. 19:18)
Do you think kindness to strangers, minorities, and people of other races is new with the Law of Christ and its focus on love? It is not: it first became law in the Law of Moses:
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Lev. 19:34)
So the Mosaic Law is not replaced by the law of love, it is the law of love . . . in its elementary form. Why elementary? Because it lacks the all-inclusiveness of the expanded and amplified Law of Christ.
Again, the key to understanding the difference between the letter of the law and the Spirit of the law is that the letter regulates actions and the Spirit regulates intent. If we keep the Spirit of the “law of love” we almost automatically keep the actions required by the letter of the law! By changing the focus of the law, therefore, the Mosaic Law is both replaced by the Spirit of the law (the law of Christ) and established by that same law! In other words, the “old law” is no longer the direct standard of conduct Christians are to conform to, but rather serves as the foundation for the enhanced standard of conduct revealed by the Spirit of the law. Both the letter of the law and the spirit of the law represent the “law of love,” only in different formats! That’s why Jesus proclaimed so adamantly that it wasn’t “done away.” Paul also speaks of this new focus of the law in Romans 7:
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." (Rom 7:6-7, NASB)
Paul is not saying that Christ’s death frees us from serving the law; He is saying that it frees us from the bondage of serving the letter of the law (and the penalty for breaking it) so that we may be free to serve “in newness of the Spirit.”
And it is not just the Ten Commandments that must be served in the spirit, the statutes and judgments that support them must too, as Jesus proclaims in Matthew 5. Notice Paul’s reference to several of them in 1 Corinthians:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Co. 6:9-10, NASB)
Paul makes it clear that access to the throne of grace and forgiveness does not give one license to sin (Rom. 6:15). In 1 Cor. 6:9-10 above Paul refers to several statutes of the law that are not included in the Ten Commandments. Fornication is not the same as adultery. Adultery (Ten Commandments) has to do with sexual relations with another man’s wife; fornication, better translated immorality, refers to immorality in general, both sexual and spiritual. His warnings about the unrighteousness of both effeminate behavior (Deut. 22:5) and homosexuality (Lev. 20:13) are also references to the statutes of God’s law. In 1 Corinthians 9:9 Paul confirms the ongoing righteousness of the statutes of God’s law by referring to the spirit of the law of the treading ox (Deut. 25:4). He uses the statute to proclaim that he and Barnabas have the right not to be “muzzled” as they preach, but rather to be supported financially by those they are ministering to.
In verse 10, quoted above, we even find Paul enhancing or enlarging the Mosaic foundation of the law just as Christ did. Here Paul adds drunkards to his list of the unrighteous who will not enter the Kingdom of God, even though there is no prohibition against it in the law. Observing that much unrighteous behavior results from drunkenness (strife, arguments, fights, gossip, foul language and all sort of hurtful and foolish behavior), and that the drunkard is repeatedly associated with the fool in the Old Testament book of Proverbs, Paul states that the perpetual drunkard will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Why? Because drunkenness leads to behavior that falls short of the Spirit of the law, and in many cases short of the Letter of the Law, and therefore does not measure up to the higher standard of righteousness required by the Law of Christ—the law of love that attempts to influence actions by first influencing the spirit and attitude that precede them. The standard of obedience has not been diminished for Christians by the Law of Christ; it has been made more stringent!
To summarize where we are concerning Jesus and the law of Moses, so far we have covered four separate sets or versions of the law:
1.) The moral law of statutes and judgments, without the sacrificial laws, given first to Abraham and then to Israel verbally by God when they departed from Egypt.
2.) The written law of the Old Covenant, given to Israel by God at Mt. Sinai because of their failure to keep the oral law. The sacrificial laws were NOT included in the Old Covenant
3.) The law of sacrifices and offerings (sacrificial laws) given also at Mt. Sinai with the written law, and also considered part of the law of Moses: but not included in the Old Covenant agreement between God and Israel.
4.) The Law of Christ, or law of love, which is the moral law (including the statutes and judgments) of the written law of Moses enhanced and expounded by Christ, now written in the hearts of believers as part of the New Covenant.
The oral law became the written law and the written law became the Spirit of the law, as expounded by Christ. Hence the written law is “removed” as the primary focus of the law, but remains as the unchanging foundation for the Law of Christ. And as we will show below, the sacrificial law passes away as it is no longer necessary after the sacrifice of God’s “righteous servant,” the lamb of God, for the sins of many.
[In our book Is Jesus the Jews’ Messiah? (shown in the right pane) we explain the New Testament logic of the doing away of the sacrificial laws and how that is consistent with the Old Testament]
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Jakob Jocz, The Jewish People and Jesus Christ (London: S.P.C.K., 1949), p. 283.
Trude Weiss-Rosmarin, Judaism and Christianity (New York: The Jewish Book Club, 1943), p. 85.
The Jewish People and Jesus Christ, p. 286.
 Judaism and Christianity, p. 86.
John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1948), p. 133.
 John F. McLaughlin, The Abingdon Bible Commentary (Abingdon:Nashville, 1929), p. 272.
 Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The NIV Bible Commentary (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1994), Vol.1, p. 108.
 C.F. Hogg & W.E. Vine, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians (Pickering & Inglis: Glasgow, 1922), p. 148.
 Ibid., p. 150.
 J.B. Lightfoot, The Epistles of St. Paul: II The Third Apostolic Journey, 3. The Epistle to the Galatians (London: MacMillan, 1921), p. 144.
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