I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
The idea that any part of the so-called Old Testament, or Old Covenant Law would have any relevance to New Covenant believers is completely foreign to most Christians. We have been taught, either directly or by implication, that when Jesus came as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world that He completely abolished the Law, and deleted the Old Testament. Such is not the case however.
Before we discuss the role of the Old Testament and the Law in the life of the Christian, I want to look at some often ignored facts:
- The New Testament quotes the Old Testament some 263 times!
- In fact, if you removed those Old Testament quotes, you wouldn’t have much New Testament left.
- When Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable…, he was referring to the Old Testament! Now certainly the New Testament record is included in, “all scripture”, but you cannot exclude the Old Testament scriptures.
- The Old Testament scrolls were what Jesus Himself and all of His original disciples read and studied.
Let’s review a passage that we examined last time in some detail. I am referring to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:17, 18. Jesus said,
“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.” [Matthew 5:17, 18]
Jesus actually makes three statements here in these two verses that we need to understand:
- “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets…”. He did not come to set aside, abolish, remove, or delete the Law or the Prophets. Some say that He did, however Jesus Himself said He did not come to do this. In no way, shape, or form did Jesus remove or delete the books of the Old Testament. He only replaced the Old Covenant contract/ceremonial ordinances. He did not come to make us a lawless people. In fact, Jeremiah 31:33, and Hebrews 8:10, 10:16 tell us very clearly that in the New Covenant Dispensation of Grace God actually writes His Laws on our hearts. So, very clearly some Laws remain. To say then that all Law is done away with is actually error and un-biblical.
- “I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” He came to fulfill, not destroy, and there is a BIG difference my friend! Many teach that Jesus destroyed all Law, and did away with it. That is contrary however to what He himself taught. Fulfill means bring to fullness. It is to bring to its full meaning and purpose. That is entirely different than doing away with.
- “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.” Was Jesus speaking in figurative terms here? I don’t believe so. I submit to you that He was referring to the end of this current universe (heaven) and this current earth. This speaks then of the coming New Heavens (universe) and the New Earth. Not until then will everything in the Law and the Prophets be fulfilled. In fact, the four fall feasts represent the rapture of the Church (Trumpets), the Great Tribulation (The Day of Atonement), and the 1,000-year Kingdom Age (Tabernacles). None of that has been fulfilled as yet. In fact, prophetically, the Old Testament scriptures speak more of the Second Coming of Christ than they do of His First Coming. So all is not fulfilled until all of this and many other prophecies come to pass, which they most definitely will.
There can be no disputing the fact that some Law has indeed passed away. For example, circumcision as a sign of the Covenant and animal sacrifices. The temporary ceremonial laws, such as the various animal sacrifices, were weak in that they had to be done repeatedly day after day with no eternal reward. They were temporary and offered temporary reward. What occurred was that the OLD Covenant was replaced with a NEW Covenant. A better (superior) Covenant established upon better (superior) promises.
A Covenant is not a law. It is important to understand the distinction. A covenant is a legal contract, an agreement between two parties, in this case God and man, which includes laws and regulates how those laws are to be carried out, and lists it’s rewards/blessings of keeping the covenant and the consequences for breaking it. God does not want us to be a lawless people/nation. Without law there is chaos. Law is good. Law is holy. However we need to understand what Law we are talking about. Under the old Covenant the law was written in stone and had to be followed to the letter, which we repeatedly broke and had to sacrifice another animal again. Under the New Covenant, The Law of the Ten Commandments has not been done away but rather still exist but are now written in our hearts and we are to follow the spiritual principal of the Law first and foremost. Under the New Covenant, we receive forgiveness of sins through the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Passover Lamb of God. The Old Covenant and it’s laws were the milk to teach us how to live Holy and Righteously. The law of ordinances was our school master. But we did not attain eternal life nor righteousness under the law of ordinances. We still sinned often. The law of ordinances condemns us. We learned lessons but were still unable to attain Righteousness just through the temporary ceremonial laws.
Under the New Covenant not only does God write His Laws (instructions) on our hearts, but He Himself takes up residence in our spirit in the person of the Holy Spirit, to empower us to live in a manner pleasing to Him.
“Yes”, someone may say, “But doesn’t the Apostle Paul teach that the Law has been done away with?” Let’s take a look at some of these passages that many have used to say that all Law is passed away.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” We looked at this verse in a previous teaching, but it bears repeating. Christ is is the end of the Law in the sense of being the goal of the Law. For man to have right-standing with the Father, Christ is the goal to which the Law pointed.
“In that He says, “A NEW COVENANT,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” If you carefully study the context of this passage you quickly discover that the writer of Hebrews is drawing a contrast between the OLD Covenant (contract) and the NEW Covenant (contract). The Old Covenant was written on stone and was literally starting to fade away due to the pure antiquity of the writing. Whereas the New Covenant is written on our hearts. The writer contrasts a temporary document with a permanent one. Dr. Kenneth Wuest gave an excellent commentary note on this verse I will share with you here: “In saying the word “new” (v. 8) God through the prophet Jeremiah had even at that time made the First Testament old. The distinctive Greek word for “old” here is not archaios, namely, that which is old in point of time, but, palaios, that which is old in point of use, worn-out, antiquated, useless, outmoded. Even in Jeremiah’s time, the insufficiency of the First Testament was recognized, and the need of a new one proclaimed.
The words “made old” are the translation of palaioo which verb has the same root as the noun palaios mentioned above. It is in the perfect tense, which tense speaks of an action completed in past time having present results. Thus, we could translate, “In saying new, He has permanently antiquated the first (covenant).” The word “de-cayeth” is the translation of the same verb, and we have “that which is being antiquated.” The words “waxeth old” are the translation of gerasko which means “to grow old” and carries with it the suggestion of the waning strength and the decay which are incident to old age. It has the meanings also of being obsolescent, failing from age.
Translation: In the fact that He says new, He has permanently antiquated the first. Now, that which is being antiquated and is waning in strength, is near to the point of vanishing away.” Kenneth S. Wuest Word Studies in the New Testament]
“having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
The “handwriting of requirements” refers to an ancient practice of crucifixion where the chargers against the individual being crucified were written down and nailed to the cross of the one being executed. They were a written summary of the debt the individual owed because of their crimes. Every one of us owed a debt, not to society, but to a Holy God. The Mosaic system with all of its requirements declared all of us, “guilty.” Messiah Jesus took that debt and nailed to His Cross and paid it in full. So in essence the, “handwriting of requirements” that was against us was the sentence, the penalty, that the broken Law of God demanded. Thank God, Jesus paid my debt and your debt at Calvary 2,000 years ago! We couldn’t pay it, but He did.
I believe we can say on solid biblical ground that while the ceremonial Law has been fulfilled in Christ, and the sacrificial system has found it’s fulfillment in the perfect Lamb of God, certainly not all Law is passed away, nor can we disregard what is referred to as the, “Old Testament.” Law and Grace are not mutually exclusive, despite much popular teaching to the contrary these days. What is the function of the Law of God for the Christian? There are at least three functions of the Law of God in the life of the Christian. I want to pick up on this next time.
Until next time,
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson