Advanced Bible Studies
23. What About "The Law of Moses"?
What About "The Law of Moses"?
Are we under the law (authority/rule) of Moses or of Christ? Which covenant (legal contract/agreement) are we under: the Old Covenant or the New Covenant? Does it even matter? Of course it matters! Paul demands that we “correctly handle the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). This of necessity involves the proper use and understanding of the Bible – a Bible which is divided into the Old and the New Testaments (Covenants).
The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ: Preliminaries
One of the most basic points to be reckoned with is also one of the first rules of Biblical interpretation: “To whom is something written?” In answer to this, it becomes very clear that the Law of Moses was never intended for all men, but rather was specifically given to physical Israel (Exodus 19:1-20:21 cf. Deuteronomy 5:1-5f. and Nehemiah 8:1-9:37). See Romans 3:19. But the Law of Christ (the Gospel) is for all men (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:46-49). It must be pointed out that this is not to be taken to mean that the Old Testament has no value for man today. The truth of the matter is that the Old Testament is of tremendous value for today. Paul stated that the Old Testament Scripture is for our learning (Romans 15:4) and for our example (I Corinthians 10:6,11). But, as we shall see, the Old Testament is not for our Law.
The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ: Principles
Christ Is The End Of The Law
Since Christ “is the end of the Law unto righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4), let Him speak for Himself: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17,18). Thus, Christ’s intention was to completely “fill-full” the Old Testament in Himself (Luke 24:44 cf. Acts 3:18-26; 13:22-39) by becoming the “mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15-17) and consequently “setting aside the first covenant He establishes the second covenant” (Hebrews 10:9). Therefore “the covenant of which Christ is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded upon better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with the first covenant, no place would have been sought for another” (Hebrews 8:6,7). And all of this fulfills the purposes of God as prophesied by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34 … Hebrews 8:6-13).
The New Covenant Is Superior
There is a reason that the New Covenant is superior to and supersedes the Old Covenant (The Law of Moses). The reason is that the Old Law made nothing (i.e. no one) perfect because it was only a shadow and copy of that which was to be found in the perfect priesthood and sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:11-10:18 cf. Hebrews 7:11-28). One of the most important distinctions and differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is found in the book of Hebrews.
The Old is a shadow of the substance found in the New
Thus, by the Law of Moses, justification and righteousness are not possible (Romans 3:21-5:21). (The Book of Romans shows us that those who lived under the Old Covenant and those who live under the New Covenant are saved in the very same way — by the principle of "the obedience of faith." For more on this critical point go here!) The Law of Moses was temporary and was given because of sin until the Christ should come and fulfill the Old Testament completely (Galatians 3:15-4:7 cf. Ephesians 2:11-22). Therefore in the New Testament we are brought to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
We Are Under The Law Of Christ
Now carefully consider the following statement of the Apostle Paul where he clearly affirms that he was “not under the Law of Moses … but under the Law of Christ” (I Corinthians 9:20-21). In another place Paul states with reference to the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ, that the Old Covenant has been removed and replaced by the New Covenant which is even more surpassing in glory (II Corinthians 3:6-18). Next, consider Paul’s analogy of marriage where he clearly implies that we cannot be married to the Law of Moses and Christ at the same time. Then he goes on to state that through (in) Christ the Law of Moses was completed and fulfilled in order “that we might belong to Him … and be released from the Law” (Romans 7:1-6).
We Are Not Under The Sabbath Law or The Ten Commandments
The following Scriptures clearly show that the Sabbath was a part of the Old Covenant (Law of Moses) and not the New Covenant (Law of Christ): Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15 … Exodus 31:12-17 … Nehemiah 9:13; Ezekiel 20:8-11 (On “everlasting/perpetual/continual” see: Genesis 17:13; Exodus 12:14,17,24; 21:6; 27:21; 28:43; 29:9,28; 30:21; 40:15; etc. The term for “everlasting” in these passages means “age lasting.”). Nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to “keep the Sabbath”; nowhere do we find the early church “observing the Sabbath”: See Col. 2:16-23 cf. Galatians 4:9-11 and consider Acts 20:7 cf. I Corinthians 16:1,2 (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1,2,9; Luke 24:1; etc.). For a further study of the Sabbath, go here. And for a fuller study of the Ten Commandments, go here!
Summary and Conclusion
Perhaps, the most serious problem in trying to go to the Law of Moses for our authority and our justification is that if we do, “we have been cut off from Christ, we have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:1-5). Therefore, we must look to Christ and His Law in order to be saved (Luke 6:46). The New Covenant clearly shows us that we are not under the Law of Moses but under the Law of Christ. See I Corinthians 9:20-21. When men refuse to understand and accept the truth of the Gospel of Christ and his New Covenant, many times they misunderstand the purpose and place of the Old Testament. Many blur the distinctions between the Covenants. Others would bind Old Covenant practices and ceremonies on the church. Still others wrongly believe that we must still observe the Sabbath and keep the Law of Moses as if they were given to all men for all times. Dear friend, what Law are you under? The Law of Moses or the Law of Christ?