—- Are Christians Under The Law? Do The Ten Commandments Apply To Christians? How Were The Old Testament Saints Saved? Do Christians Still Have To Follow The Ten Commandments? —-
These questions are all very valid ones that any Christian should be able to answer. What role does the Levitical law play in the life of a Christian? Were people in the Old Testament saved by the law? This study will explain the differences between the law, the Gospel and the covenants of God to show that no true, born again believer in Jesus Christ is required to follow the laws of the Mosaic covenant and that none of the laws, even the ten commandments, apply to Christians today. This article will also explain what “laws” Christians are under today and why we are free from the burdens of the Levitical law through Jesus Christ.
Understanding The Covenants
At various points in the Bible, The Lord entered into covenants with individuals, nations and the world at large. Webster’s 1828 dictionary (which was based on the language of the King James Bible) defines a “covenant” as:
1. A mutual consent or agreement of two or more persons, to do or to forbear some act or thing; a contract; stipulation. A covenant is created by deed in writing, sealed and executed; or it may be implied in the contract. (source).
This article will focus on three covenants: 1) the Mosaic or “Old Covenant”, 2) the covenant between God and Abraham or the “Abrahamic Covenant”, and 3) the “New Covenant” of Jesus Christ. To understand the purpose of the law it is critical to understand the function and interaction of these three covenants.
The Abrahamic Covenant
And [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and [The Lord] counted it to him for righteousness. – Genesis 15:6.
The covenant between God and Abraham featured a series of promises that God would fulfill for Abraham. God initiated the covenant and was going to perform the actions in the covenant Himself. The chief promise was that Abraham would be a land of his own and a large number of descendants:
And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. – Genesis 13:14-17.
The Sign of The Covenant
Here is a key concept in understanding Scripture. Abraham believed God´s promises to Him and thus received the blessings by his faith. However The Lord still wanted Abraham´s signature on the covenant . The sign of this covenant was circumcision:
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. – Genesis 17:1-13.
It should be clear here that sign of the covenant being maintained in the family of Abraham was circumcision of every son born in his house. The word “token” (or ‘owth in Hebrew) in verse 11 means a sign. God further stresses the importance of this sign by saying: “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” (Genesis 17:14). Merely being a physical descendant of Abraham was not enough to be a part of the covenant. Circumcision was required for all males as their signature to the agreement made between The Lord and Abraham. Similarly today, when two people or companies make a contract, it is not “official” until both parties sign the document, thus showing that they are personally in agreement with its terms and have faith the other party will deliver on what they promise (because you would never enter into a contract with someone you had no faith would perform their part of the agreement).
Thus the covenant was established with Abraham and passed on to a specific son in each generation via a blessing from a patriarch. In Exodus 2:24 when Abraham’s descendants, the ancient Israelites, were in slavery in Egypt as God had prophesied, The Lord specifically refers to the Abrahamic covenant:
And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them. – Exodus 2:23-25.
All of the “children of Israel” were direct descendants of Abraham who were a part of the Abrahamic covenant by faith in God and through the sign of circumcision. In Exodus, we see the time of the slavery of the Israelites come to an end as God commissioned Moses to lead the nation out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, that God contracted to give to Abraham back in Genesis 15. But before entering that land, another covenant was established – the Mosaic Covenant.
Understanding The Law of Moses – The Old Covenant
And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them. – Exodus 24:12.
There is a great deal of confusion about the law of Moses, also known as the Mosaic law, “the law” or the Old Covenant. When The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness, He made an offer to the nation of Israel to enter into a covenant with Him. God provided a series of laws and if they were followed, the Israelites would receive numerous blessings. If they were broken, they would receive a series of curses as punishment.
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 basons; 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. – Exodus 24:3-8.
There are several important details in this passage. Notice that this covenant was optional. The Israelites chose to enter this covenant with God and agreed unanimously as a nation to fulfill it. Also note that unlike the Abrahamic covenant, the burden of performance was on the Israelites. In the Abrahamic covenant, God promised to provide certain blessings to Abraham based on the faith Abraham had in God. The Mosaic covenant was a series of promises the Israelites made to God to perfectly follow all of the laws given by The Lord. Once the contract was agreed to, Moses sprinkled blood on all of the people ratifying the contract.
The Sign Of The Mosaic Covenant
Like the Abrahamic Covenant, the law of Moses had a sign: the Sabbath. This is established in Exodus 31:
Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. – Exodus 31:14-18.
Like circumcision, keeping the Sabbath was a clear required sign to being a member of the Mosaic covenant. It was the signature every individual had to make to show they personally were in contract with The Lord. Notice once again, God says that any person who does not have this sign is “cut off” just as he said with circumcision. God followed this pronouncement by giving Moses the two tables of stone which had the ten commandments written on them by The Lord Himself. And this leads to another important concept – the ten commandments are the “Old Covenant.”
The Ten Commandments Are The Old Covenant
There are over 600 laws given in the Mosaic Covenant, but the ten commandments given by God comprise the actual covenant itself. All of the other laws were supplements to explain in more detail what the commandments forbid (for example, the numerous laws regarding under what conditions a woman can be remarry and fornication, expand on the command of “thou shalt not commit adultery”). But Scripture is clear that the 10 commandments are the covenant:
And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. – Exodus 34:27-28.
At two points in this passage the ten commandments are called the covenant.
And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. – Deuteronomy 4:13.
When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water: And the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly. And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant.
And the LORD said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image. Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they. So I turned and came down from the mount, and the mount burned with fire: and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands. – Deuteronomy 9:9-11.
So by the clear testimony of Moses, the ten commandments indeed comprised the old covenant. The other approximately 600 laws in the Old Testament were supplemental to give more detail on specific sins and the system of sacrifices for sin covering. Here is another examples from King Solomon:
There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt. – 1 Kings 8:9, 21.
The Purpose of The Old Covenant
At this point in Biblical history, the nation of Israel was under two covenants: the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenant or the Law. So since the Abrahamic covenant provided the promised Land and the Messiah, what was the actual purpose of the Mosaic covenant? Scripture of course provides the answer:
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is 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. – Galatians 3:16-20.
So we see that there is a major distinction between the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic. The covenant God made with Abraham was comprised of God’s promises to bless Abraham and his seed. No work or performance was required on Abraham’s part aside from faith in God’s Word. The Mosaic covenant was conditional on the performance of Israel. It required human performance and obedience, which of course, was not perfect as God is perfect in His performance and honesty. And thus, the promises God made to Abraham cannot be annulled by the Mosaic law. And there is no divine inheritance in the mosaic law – because all the promises of land and salvation were made to Abraham and his seed. So what was the purpose of the Mosaic law? It was to serve as guidelines and divine standards on sin and atonement until “the seed should come.” And who is “the seed”? It’s Jesus Christ.
So from the onset, the Mosaic Law had an expiration date. It was only in effect, until Jesus Christ, the prophesied Messiah, the “seed of the woman” from Genesis 3 and the Savior who was the “seed” promised to Abraham, arrived on Earth.
Additionally, it was impossible for any person to obey the Old Covenant. It required perfect obedience to every command:
But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: – Deuteronomy 28:15.
This is confirmed in James chapter 2:
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. – James 2:10.
Any person trying to justify themselves by keeping the Mosaic law is required to PERFECTLY observe every single law. There were no exceptions in the covenant. Let this be a lesson and warning to any ministry, pastor or group who teach that somehow keeping the Mosaic law can lead to Heaven or some extra blessing. Scripture is clear – it requires 100% obedience or you are guilty of violating all of it and cursed in God’s eyes.
Of course, since Israel was composed of normal human beings, who are all sinners, the Old Covenant was broken. And still today, if any person is in sin, absent God’s grace, the curse of their sin remains and the wrath of God abides over them. So then what hope did the people in ancient times have? How could they ever hope to go to Heaven with such a covenant hanging over their heads, which they unanimously agreed to enter into? It was by the New Covenant that all people were saved. And in the book of Jeremiah The Lord announced this part of the plan of salvation:
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:Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 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. – Jeremiah 31:31-33.
So even back in the Old Testament and during a time Israel was being punished with the Babylonian captivity, God was already announcing that the Old Covenant (the covenant made after coming out of the land of Egypt) was broken and that a new covenant between God and humanity would be established. And this New Covenant is established by Jesus Christ.
The Mosaic law, rather than being a way to go to Heaven – was a reminder of the sin and transgression which all people committed. It served as the clear proof that every person was indeed in violation of God’s law and under the curse. And in doing this, it shows that every sinner needs a savior, thus pointing to Jesus Christ (the “seed” promised to Abraham), for salvation through faith:
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. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. – Hebrews 7:21-25.
So Scripture is clear that salvation is and always has been achieved through faith, not works of the law. Paul makes this even clearer in the book of Galatians, addressing a church that was infiltrated by “judaizers” – men who claimed that anyone who wanted to be Christian had to follow the law of Moses:
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. – Galatians 3:1-4.
Paul compared the belief that keeping the law saves to witchcraft. And he admonishes this church to remember that they were saved not by their works, but through faith. They received the Holy Spirit once they believed the Gospel, that Jesus Christ died for their sins and took the punishment of God’s wrath for them on the cross and rose on the third day. Believing that doing good works of the law can save makes the Christian life vanity. Why? Because it denies the faith in the work that Christ did. Christ’s work and sacrifice accomplishes everything for the Christian.
He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. – Galatians 3:5-9.
Paul then goes back to the Abrahamic covenant – the covenant that promised salvation by faith. He again emphasizes that Abraham was saved by faith – which was accounted as righteousness before God, meaning that God justified Abraham or declared him not guilty of sin because Abraham believed the promises of salvation which God told him directly. And this is how all people are saved. It is through faith not through keeping the Ten Commandments or the many other laws of the Mosaic covenant.
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. – Galatians 3:10-14.
Those who try to justify themselves by keeping the commandments are in for a rude awakening – the reader is reminded once again that God stated that if one law is broken, then a person is cursed with all the curses that were listed in the law. No person can receive salvation this way. But a person can be saved and declared righteous before God by faith. How? Because Christ, living a sinless, perfect life was the only one able to offer Himself as a perfect atoning sacrifice, taking on the sins of humanity and the curse of sin and dying on the cross. Only to defeat death, sin and the grave by His resurrection, allowing all who believe in Him to partake in the blessings He earned and in eternal life. And true born again Christians are not bound to the Old Covenant any longer.
True Christians Are Dead To The Law
Romans 7 illustrates how the separation from the Old Covenant takes place by using marriage as an allegory:
Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. – Romans 7:1-3.
Paul, addressing Jewish believers who knew the Mosaic law and lived by it all their lives, explains the rules of marriage they were familiar with – a married woman was bound to her husband as long as he was alive. If she left him for another man, she was committing adultery. But, if the husband died, the woman was free to marry another man. This was a picture of the unbeliever being under the law and then being freed from the law once she becomes a believer and enters into the New Covenant with Jesus Christ:
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 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. – Romans 7:4-6.
When a person is born again, their old spirit, which was of the world, dies and a new spirit is born in them. This spiritual death is what Paul calls becoming “dead to the law.” By believing in Christ’s death, the old marriage to the law is over and the new born again believer can be rightfully wed to Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. So none of the Old Covenant laws, including the ten commandments are a part of the covenant of a Christian who is a true born again believer in God.
Jesus Christ Preached A New And Better Covenant
As the rightful heir of the Abrahamic blessings, the entire world and the head of salvation of all people, Jesus Christ earned the right to establish the New Covenant. And for those who believe, Jesus serves as the High Priest in Heaven, interceding on behalf of all believers and providing forgiveness of their sins:
Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. – Hebrews 8:1-5.
Hebrews chapter 8 explains in detail that the instructions for the priesthood given to Moses when the Old Covenant was established was a type and shadow, patterned on the Heavenly tabernacle of which Jesus Christ is the true High priest:
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. – Hebrews 8:6-9.
Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant. The New Covenant, which provides salvation through faith or belief is a superior covenant. Because it was not based on human performance, but on the promises of God. And here the writer quotes Jeremiah 31 where The Lord specifically announced that a new covenant would be established. And Jesus Christ is the mediator of this superior covenant.
Hebrews 8 concludes detailing the expiration of the Mosaic law:
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. – Hebrews 8:12-13.
Once a person put theirs faith and trust in Christ, their sins are forgiven forever. And the Old Covenant of the Law, vanishes away. This is why from the time Jesus began His ministry on Earth began, Jesus proclaimed His superiority to the Mosaic law. Notice in these examples from the sermon on the mount, Jesus quotes the Mosaic law and then shows that His standards are far superior:
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. – Matthew 5:27-28.
Not only was intimacy outside of marriage adultery, but even looking at another person outside of marriage with lust was adultery in Jesus’ eyes.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. – Matthew 5:38-42.
Rather than getting even when someone wrongfully attacks you, Jesus said to resist evil and be peaceful even when someone is hitting you. And to give to those who demand too much of you. In these examples, Jesus is going beyond what the Mosaic law required and saying“But I say…” to show that His covenant is an even greater one because it goes to the heart and mind of a person, not just their outward behavior.
Christ Established The New Covenant
At the Last Supper – the Passover meal before the arrest and crucifixion, Jesus formally established the New Covenant:
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. – Matthew 26:26-29.
Just as Moses announced the Old Covenant with the blood of the lamb on hyssop 1500 years earlier, Jesus Christ raised the cup at Passover symbolically calling it His blood and announcing the New Covenant, for the remission of sins in His name. And His true blood was shed on the cross, forever removing the barriers between God and man:
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; – Matthew 27:46-51.
At Christ’s death, the veil in the temple, which separated the Holy Place, where the priests performed their duties, from the Most Holy Place, where only the High Priest could enter once a year to offer up incense before God for the sins of the nation, was torn. No longer was there a need for the Mosaic law system of sacrifice and sin covering atonement. In Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice, there was forgiveness once and for all for all who believed. For those who are born again, there is only one High Priest, Jesus Christ. They are saved by faith, not works. And the law is now vanished away in their lives. No Christian is under any of the Mosaic law. All true, born again believers are entered into the New Covenant.
[B&E: And to be technical, if you believe following the Mosaic law is required of you (i.e., like many in the Hebrew Roots movement), then Jesus Christ cannot be your High Priest. Why? Because He is not a Levite. By the law of the Old Covenant, a priest can only be of the tribe of Levi and Jesus is of the tribe of Judah. Consider this carefully if you believe, preach or teach that Mosaic law-keeping is still in effect today.]
In order to go to Heaven a person must believe in Jesus Christ by faith and enter into the New Covenant. Anyone preaching that the Mosaic Law is required or that the Ten Commandments are the way of going to Heaven is preaching a false message. Scripture is clear that the Law’s purpose was to convict people of their sin and point them to the need for a Savior. All people have sinned except for the sinless Savior Jesus Christ. And it is only through faith in Him that a person can go to Heaven, not through their own good behavior or works.
This concludes this study. But it would be remiss to not address some of the obvious questions that can arise from the statements made in this article. So now we will attempt to do so.
Common Questions About The Law And the Gospel
“Didn’t Jesus Say ‘Until Heaven and Earth pass, not one jot or tittle shall pass from the law?”
This is a very good question. And the answer is that is not exactly what Jesus said. This passage is VERY often misquoted by pastors, teachers and churchgoers alike. Let’s look at exactly what Jesus said in this passage:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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. – Matthew 5:17-18.
In order to understand this passage it must be read completely. Notice that Jesus says “…one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED.” The point here is that Jesus was not saying that the law would never pass away. He was saying that the law would indeed pass away at a very specific time. When? When “all be fulfilled.” So the question the believer must ask is: when was all fulfilled?
A common response to this question is that Jesus fulfilled the law by living a sinless life and being perfectly obedient. While Jesus of course was without any sin, it is this author’s contention that that is not what is meant by “all be fulfilled.” The fulfillment of the books of the law and the prophets (Jesus mentions both in verse 17) was accomplished by Jesus fulfilling all of the many Messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament. Here are some examples to further support this:
At Jesus’ Birth
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. – Matthew 1:19-23.
During Jesus’ Infancy
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. – Matthew 2:13-15.
Herod’s Slaughter of Male Babies
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. – Matthew 2:16-18.
But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. – Matthew 2:22-23.
Jesus’ Move to Capernaum After John The Baptist Was Imprisoned
And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. – Matthew 4:13-16.
When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses. – Matthew 8:16-17.
And these are just a few of the many examples where Jesus’ life and actions fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. So that still leaves the question of when “all” was fulfilled. That answer is found in John Chapter 19, on the cross:
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. – John 19:28-30.
It was at this moment on the cross that all was fulfilled. And after fulfilling a final prophecy, Jesus announced “It is finished.” All had been fulfilled and accomplished in Him. And thus as Scripture properly details, the Mosaic law “vanished” away as the New Covenant was established with the death and shed blood of Christ.
“So if we are not under ANY of the Ten Commandments, Christians can just sin as much as they want not? Anything goes? Murder?”
The obvious answer to this question is no. Christians are not free to sin willy nilly. The Ten Commandments of the Old Covenant, written in stone, have been replaced by The Holy Spirit. This again was confirmed by The Lord in Jeremiah 31:
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. – Jeremiah 31:33.
The Holy Spirit indwells a Christian at the moment of salvation. Jesus proclaimed this in John chapter 16:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. – John 16:7-14.
The Holy Spirit reproves the world of sin. It can convict a Christian to know they are in sin in their heart. And the new born spirit God has given to the Christian bears witness of this. Christians do NOT need the Ten Commandments read to them every morning to know that stealing or adultery is wrong. They know it in their hearts because God has now put His law into the hearts of all who believe. This is a supernatural change that takes place. A Christian has a desire to please God and in their sinful failures, despises their sin in shame and repents.
In Ephesians 4, Paul says the unbelievers in their vanity, have no such relationship with God and no understanding of their sin.
the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
But to Christians he says:
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. ….Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. – Ephesians 4.
The new spirit of the born again Christian knows God’s Word and seeks to please God. That is the centrality of the Christian life. A Christians knows murder is wrong, racism is evil and that being a respecter of persons is wrong. And notice as Paul tells Christians not to lie or sin, he adds: “grieve not the Holy Spirit” – which is what a Christian does when in sin.
So rather than have a license to sin, a Christian should know much better than any unbeliever what is sinful and offensive to God. And of course studying The Word, prayer and living an active and devoted Christian life will only feed the spirit that much more and make understanding God’s desires that much easier.
“Didn’t Jesus Say ‘If you love me, obey my commandments’?”
Yes, Jesus said this. But the question is, what are His commandments? Scripture tells us:
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. – Matthew 22:35-40.
Notice Jesus answered the question with two commandments that are not in the Ten Commandments! Again, Jesus was displaying the superiority of His better covenant. And with it, were His two commandments for all Christians.
Jesus says “if you love me, keep my commandments” in John 14 He elaborates on the commandment:
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. – John 15:10-12.
“ These things I command you, that ye love one another.” – John 15:17.
Jesus’ commandments are straightforward: love God and love your neighbor. When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we show our love. When we pray and worship Christ, repent of our sins and live for Him, we are showing our love. When we are caring, compassionate and forgiving to others, we are showing them love.
The Apostle John confirms the commandments of Jesus 1 John 3:
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. – 1 John 3:22-24.
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. – James 2:8-10.
Notice James contrasts the commandments of Christ with the Mosaic law. In loving people, we are not going to show favoritism, be racist, steal from them, harm them or other sinful activities. Love encompasses moral treatment of others and goes beyond that. These are the commandments of Jesus Christ and a Christian should indeed keep them.