I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
I want to apologize for any confusion I may have caused with my last post with regard to the numbering. This post is the twenty-seventh post in our current series on Dispensations. So my apologies if I have gotten off in the numbering of the posts. I really appreciate all of you who follow this BLOG, and I pray our posts are a blessing to you and provide you some supplemental spiritual nourishment.
I want to continue on our current teaching on the Dispensation of Law. This particular Dispensation was at least 1,718 years in length, and historically took in the period of time from the Exodus from Egypt, to the preaching of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah.
The question before us this time is, does the Law have any place in the life of the Church, or more specifically, is the Law; the Sinai Covenant, binding on New Covenant believers? I want to examine this question carefully, as I believe it is crucial that we settle on the answer to this question.
Let me preface that which we will share in this post with a statement I believe is very important all believers grasp when approaching the scriptures. As American Christians, in our Western culture, we tend to view the Bible through what could be referred to as, “Western eyes.” The Bible however is an Eastern book. It is a Jewish book. It was written as “breathed out” by the Holy Spirit by about 40 different Jewish men, over a period of about 1,500 years. We should then seek to understand the Bible from a Jewish or Hebraic perspective. We should study Jewish customs, the Feasts, the sacrificial system, etc.; all with a goal in mind of understanding the Jewish scriptures, which point to our Jewish Messiah. This is what I have sought to do for many years now, and continue to do so.
There is a vast difference however between studying the scriptures, and seeking to understand the Bible from that perspective, and thinking that one must actually become Jewish and live according to the Sinai Covenant. I have no quarrel with my brethren who hold the conviction that that they are to keep the Sabbath, observe the various feast days, and live what is referred to as a, “Torah observant” lifestyle. I think we have freedom in Christ to do that if that is one’s conviction, (as well I believe we have freedom in Christ not to). However, the problem arises when these same believers try to impose their convictions regarding these matters on other members of the Body. This is where, in my opinion, we go beyond scripture, and actually are in danger of becoming like the Judaizers the Apostle Paul had to deal with in the early years of the Church.
I believe we can say on the authority of scripture, that God never intended for the Law to be binding, (and binding is the key word), upon the New Testament Church. Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia, “Then why the Torah? It was added because of wrongdoings until the Seed would come—to whom the promise had been made. It was arranged through angels by the hand of an intermediary.” [Gal. 3:19 Tree of Life Version] “Torah” (tow-rah) is the Hebrew word typically translated, “Law”, and means, “instructions.” So, in the Dispensation of Law, God basically added his Torah, or instructions, to show mankind exactly what sin is, and what His righteous requirements are. It was added until when? “..Until the seed would come…”. Or in other words, until the Messiah or Jesus would come.
At this point it is vitally important to understand exactly what Jesus came to do with regard to the Law. We can have one of two extremes on this point beloved. On the one hand, are the Judaizers, binding New Covenant believers to strict Torah observance and rituals, while on the other hand are those who are actually perverting grace and living in well, lawlessness. What do I mean by this? Simply that there is a balance between thinking that somehow our strict attempts to keep the Law somehow make us more pleasing to the Father, and the other extreme, those believers who act as though grace means that Christians can live like the world while maintaining a position of right-standing before God.
What did Jesus say that He had come to do with regard to the Law? “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” [Matt. 5:17, 18] Now, most of you know that I really place a great premium on word studies. I think interacting with the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts of the Bible are vitally important to arriving at a correct understanding of the author’s intended purpose in what is written. With that said, let’s examine two salient words in this passage.
- Destroy – This is the Greek word, kataluo. This Greek verb is actually a compound made up of first of the prefix kata, which is a preposition that means, “Down from, to take down from.” And, luo, which basically is to unloose or untie. When we put the two parts of this word together we have, kataluo, “to dissolve, disunite, or demolish.” Metaphorically it is, “to overthrow, render vain, or bring to naught.” Jesus said He did not come to do any of this to the Law.
- Fulfill – This is the Greek pleroo (play-ro’-o). It is from the root word, pleres, to make replete, or fill up. Pleroo is to, “fill up, fill to the full, to cause to abound, to furnish, or one could even say, give meaning to.”
So Jesus said that He came not to destroy or demolish the Law, but to fill it up, or to furnish it with meaning. So Jesus did not come, we could say, to do away with the Law. It is important we get a hold of this, especially since we live in an age when many old heresies are enjoying resurgence in the modern church. One of these old heresies is antinomianism. What is that? Antinomianism is made up of the two Greek words, anti (against), and nomos, meaning “law”. So, in essence, antinomianism means, “against the Law.” It is a teaching that says that there are no moral laws that God expects Christians to obey. This teaching takes a definite biblical teaching to an unbiblical conclusion.
The biblical teaching is that Christians are not required to keep Old Testament Law as a means of salvation. When Jesus died on the Cross, He fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law. The Bible says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” [Rom. 10:4]
Someone says, “You see Bro. Kevin. Christ is the end of the Law! There is no more Law. It has been done away with in Christ!” But wait beloved. Is that what this passage is saying? No, it is not. Let’s look at this same verse in the Tree of Life Version,
“For Messiah is the goal of the Torah as a means to righteousness for everyone who keeps trusting.” [Rom. 10:4 TLV] Did you catch that? Christ is the end of the Law in the sense of being the goal of the Law. Just as a runner in a race is running for a purpose, that purpose being to reach the finish line, so the finish line or goal of the Law was Messiah Jesus. For what though? Righteousness. To bring you and I to righteousness or right-standing with the Father, all of the various sacrifices and offerings of the Mosaic system, pointed to the goal, which was Christ. He is the goal of the Law, for righteousness.
Romans 10:4 then is not saying that Christ was the end of the Law in the sense of ending the Law, but in the sense of Christ being the goal of the Law for righteousness. If bringing humanity into a position of right-standing with God was the purpose of the Law, which it was, then Christ fulfilled that purpose.
In Romans 10:4 the word, “end” translates the Greek, telos, which is, “end, termination, the limit at which a thing ceases to be (always of the end of some act or state, but not the end of a period of time), the end.” So Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness. No longer are believers bound to rituals, various offerings, sacrifices, and the observance of feast days all in an attempt to have right-standing with the Father. Again, I won’t quarrel with or divide with my brethren who would make an argument that they do many of these things because of right-standing. I get that. However, we need to understand that righteousness, or right-standing is received solely by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus the Messiah.
“So,” someone might say, “That means the Law is passed away, or done away with, right?” Not at all. We need to take a closer look at what else Jesus said concerning the Law in the passage above. He said in Matthew 5:18,
“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” [Matt. 5:18]
I think we can all agree that heaven and earth have not passed away. What about the “jot” and “tittle” to which Jesus referred in this verse as translated by the NKJV translators? First, the “jot” (or yod), is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. A “tittle” is even seemingly more insignificant, in that it is the little hook or bend on certain Hebrew letters that distinguishes between them. No big deal, right? Vincent’s Word Studies has an interesting note on the importance of the “jot” (Yod), and “tittle.” He writes,
“Jewish tradition mentions the letter yod as being irremovable; adding that, if all men in the world were gathered to abolish the least letter in the law, they would not succeed. The guilt of changing those little hooks which distinguish between certain Hebrew letters is declared to be so great that, if such a thing were done, the world would be destroyed.” [Vincent’s Word Studies on Matthew 5:18]
If all of this is the case then, what purpose does the Law serve in the lives of believers living under the Dispensation of Grace? I want to share with you at least three functions the Law serves in the lives of New Covenant believers. We will take that up, Lord willing, next time.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson