THE LAW OF MOSES
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
I am not certain we Christians understand clearly what the Law of Moses has to do with our salvation. In one sense the Law has no authority over us. In another sense, the Law hovers in the background of our behavior. It may be true that we are not aware of our relationship to the Law.
THE LAW OF MOSES
Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)
So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (Galatians 3:24,25)
The Apostle Paul has made it clear in the Book of Galatians that we are not to return to any part of the Law of Moses, including circumcision. This does not always seem to be understood by the Christians of our day. There are lingering doubts about the Sabbath, about circumcision, and about the feast days. As Paul said, if we become circumcised for religious reasons we are obligated to keep the entire Law (which we cannot because animal sacrifices are not available to us). James told us if we break any part of the Law we are guilty of breaking the entire Law.
If we really believe that the writings of the Apostle Paul are the inerrant Word of God, then we must accept the fact that we are under no part of the Law of Moses.
How, then, do we reconcile the statements of the Lord Jesus concerning the Law? “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
And what does Paul means when he says “the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith; now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law?
It sounds like the Lord Jesus is saying the Law is still in force. It sounds like Paul is saying the Law has been done away with.
Can these two apparently contradictory statements be reconciled. If so, how?
In the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul tells us that the Law of Moses, instead of guiding him into righteousness, caused sin to come to life in him. He wanted to obey the law but his sinful nature caused him to disobey the Law.
Then, in the eighth chapter, Paul explains the relationship of the Law to our salvation in Christ.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:1)
Paul is addressing Jews, telling them that they can look up from the scroll of the Law and put their faith in Jesus, and yet be without condemnation. The righteousness they were seeking under the Law is given to them through Christ.
It is difficult for us Gentiles to understand the text of the New Testament because we do not realize how important the Law was to the Jews. After all, the large church in Jerusalem under Pastor James comprised thousands of Christian Jews, all keeping the Law of Moses. Paul’s epistles reflect his continuing struggle to persuade the Jews to turn from the Law to Christ
Our misunderstanding of Paul’s reasoning have caused us to believe Paul was saying now that we have faith in Christ we do not have to live righteously. Actually Paul was teaching now that we have faith in Christ we do not have to keep the Law of Moses. A vast and significant difference. A misunderstanding of this difference has produced moral chaos in the Christian churches and has made Paul’s writings appear to contradict themselves.
Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)
The law of the Spirit of life is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit Himself is our Law, under the new covenant. The law of sin and death is explained in the preceding chapter. It is the interaction of the Law of Moses and our sinful nature. The Law of Moses condemns the actions of our sinful nature, thus producing death in us.
Paul is saying the law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the death produced by the interaction of the Law of Moses and our sinful nature.
Remember, Paul’s motive in writing such statements is to convince Jews (“I speak to those who know the Law”) that the salvation that is in Christ is superior to the Law of Moses.
The next two verses are somewhat difficult to understand, but they are crucial to what I am saying in this essay.
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, (Romans 8:3)
The Law was not able to produce righteous people. People who behave righteously are the goal of all of God’s covenants. We err greatly when we present the Gospel as a means of pleasing God apart from righteous behavior.
The Law of Moses was not able to produce righteous people because of the strength of our sinful nature. The Law itself is perfect and righteous. But our sinful nature wars against the Law.
God solved the problem. God sent His Son to be a sin offering. Christ kept the Law of Moses perfectly. Then He took our sins on Himself and suffered the penalty of sin. The penalty of sin is separation from God. For a horrible season, Christ was separated from the Presence of God.
Thus sin was condemned in Christ. An atonement for sin was made by His blood, and also by the fact that the Innocent was separated from God. “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
So we have a Man who kept the Law perfectly, and yet suffered as though He were a sinner. He became sin for us—a fearful thought!
In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
Right here is the answer to the seeming contradiction between what Jesus stated and what Paul taught. Jesus said the Law would not pass away until heaven and earth disappear. Paul wrote that we are not to return to any part of the Law.
The answer is, we have been released from the authority of the Law provided that we do not live according to our sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
If we choose each day to turn aside from the desires of our sinful nature and obey the Spirit of God, it is as though we have kept the Law of Moses perfectly. Think of it! The righteous requirements of the Law of Moses are fully met in us.
But if we, as is true of multitudes of Christian people, do not earnestly turn aside from our sinful nature each day, choosing instead to live according to the appetites and passions of our sinful nature, it is not true that the righteousness of the Law has been ascribed to us. The Law of Moses claims us. We are under condemnation!
Can you see that what Jesus said remains true, and what Paul stated about our no longer being under the authority of the Law also is true?
Now, there is a serious problem here. Many if not most Christians have been taught that the Law of Moses no longer applies to them. They have been taught that they are saved by “grace,” meaning how they behave is not critically related to their salvation.
They may have heard of the sinful nature, but their belief is they cannot overcome the sinful nature, and so it is necessary for God to forgive them and save them as they are.
This is not at all true. If they are yielding to their sinful nature, then the righteous requirements of the Law of Moses are not being fulfilled in them. If this is the case, the Law is convicting them of sin.
But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:9-11)
Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know he appeared so he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (John 3:4-6)
We would say today if we showed favoritism by preferring wealthy people over poor people, we would not be guilty of sin. Grace would cover our behavior.
But the Bible says if we show favoritism we are convicted by the Law of Moses as lawbreakers.
The Apostle John writes that Jesus appeared to take away our sins; not to forgive our sins only, but to take away our sins.
John maintains that when we sin we are breaking the Law of Moses. John went on to state if we continue to sin we do not know the Lord.
We would say today that everyone keeps on sinning but we need not worry, the righteousness of Christ is ascribed to us. But Paul denies this. Paul writes that the righteousness of Christ is ascribed to us only as long as we turn aside from our sinful nature and follow the Spirit of God.
We can see from this that we are in deception today. What is being preached in many instance is unscriptural and destructive of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ.
What do we do about this?
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)
Today we would say our righteousness as Christians surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses because the righteousness of the Law has been ascribed to us through Christ.
But this is not the interpretation the context indicates.
Think about the verses that follow Christ’s words in Matthew 5:20:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. (Matthew 5:21,22)
You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28,28)
It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.” But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31,32)
You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)
The grace of God in Christ is intended to make us more righteous, not less righteous, than the Law of Moses. Not by ascribed, but by actual righteousness of behavior.
We see, therefore, that when Christ said our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses, He meant we must behave more righteously than they. This is not difficult. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses were covetous, envious, and murderers of Christ, according to the Gospel accounts.
We have been taught we cannot keep the Law and we cannot keep the commandments of Christ either. We must be saved by forgiveness alone. Thus we have made the words of Jesus of no effect.
But how do we keep the words of Christ?
- By going to the Throne of Grace in continual prayer.
- By meditating in the Scriptures–Old Testament and New.
- By following the Holy Spirit as He leads us in putting to death the actions of our sinful nature.
- By presenting our body as a sacrifice to God.
- By denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Jesus each day.
- By gathering on a regular basis with fervent believers.
- By exhorting one another daily.
- By confessing our sins and turning away from them.
- By coveting and then exercising a ministry of the Spirit.
- By obeying God sternly when He speaks to us.
Growth in Christ is growth in the ability to distinguish between good and evil, and in the strength and willingness to embrace the good and reject the evil.
We have been badly deceived by the current interpretation of Divine grace, and we have moral wreckage in the Christian churches to show for it.
What can we do about this?
- Pray, pray, pray that God will give us a reformation of Christian thinking in America.
- Do everything God tells us to do.
- Let our own light shine that other Christians may realize they too can gain victory over sin through Jesus Christ.
- Refuse to have anything to do with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them.
- Refuse to listen when a believer begins to criticize or gossip about another believer.
I think if we faithfully stand for the truth and live the truth, God will help us spread the word that the Kingdom of God is not a philosophy but an actual rule of God through Christ that causes people to live righteously, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.
(“The Law of Moses”, 3804-1)