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PART 2: THE ABOLITION OF THE LAW:
By Norman Manzon
This study is the second and final part of the series, The Christian and the Law of Moses. In the first study, Part 1: The Abolition of the Law, it was demonstrated that, at the moment of Jesus' death, the entire Law and each of its 613 commandments became inoperative as a rule of life. This theme will be further developed here. We will then shift our focus to what the abolition of the Law means for the Christian. Before the reader proceeds, it is essential that he grasp the issues, arguments and conclusions presented in our first study. It is therefore urged that a study or review of Part 1: The Abolition of the Law be undertaken.
We'll begin again with a presentation of the Association of Messianic Congregation's Statement on the believer and the Law, for which this series was originally written, followed by the conclusion of our Part 1 study.
I. THE LAW IS A UNIT
A. GENERAL DEVELOPMENT
In numerous places in the Hebrew scriptures, the Law is referred to as Torah. In the New American Standard translation, "Law of Moses" appears fourteen times, and in each case, the word for Law is Torah. In the New Testament, the Greek word used for Law is nomos. "The word Torah, meaning 'law,' is always singular when applied to the Law of Moses, even though it contains 613 commandments. The same is true of the Greek word nomos in the New Testament."1 Therefore, when the Scripture says that the Law came to an end with the death of Christ - Galatians 3:19 and Ephesians 2:15, above, specifically use "Law" - it means that every single Mosaic Law without exception became inoperative at that time.
James 2:10-11 also makes the point. 10: For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. Puncture any part of a balloon, and the whole balloon explodes!
Galatians 3:10 also makes the point.
The Law has been categorized in various helpful ways. The distinction between the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law is made clear in Scripture: The former was given to Moses at Sinai and was written by the finger of God on stone (Exodus 31:18), and the rest of the Law was given to Moses subsequent to Sinai, and was written by the hand of Moses on parchment (Exodus 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:9-13,22,24-26). Other categorizations have been made by virtue of purely human reasoning, such as the division of the law into the moral, civil and ceremonial, or into laws concerning the priesthood, property, diet, etc.; but no matter how the laws may be distinguished or categorized, not a single category - not a single law - is operative today. In 2 Corinthians 3:7,11 letters engraved on stones specifically refers to the Ten Commandments:
Again, the word translated fading and fades away is katargeo, which means "to render inoperative."
The Mosaic command to circumcise became inoperative when the entire Law became inoperative; yet, circumcision is still enjoined upon Jewish males because it is the token of the prior Abrahamic Covenant, which still stands. A parallel situation exists with the Sabbath command as it was enjoined upon Israel before it was incorporated into the Ten Commandments (Exodus 16:4-5,23-30; Exodus 20). It would be logical to conclude that the abolition of the Law has no bearing on the prior Sabbath commandment, and that it should still be obeyed; yet, this is not the case. New Testament teaching to the contrary will be explored below.
The abolition of the Law has various ramifications for the believer.
Since the Law has been abolished, no believer is under the Law.
Romans 6:14b. You are not under law but under grace.
It must be emphasized that the Law was in effect only from Moses to the cross; that it was given solely to Israel (Exodus 19:3-8; Deuteronomy 4:8; Psalm 147:19-20; Malachi 4:4; Romans 9:4);* that Gentiles who were not proselytes to the Law were never under the Law; that Gentiles who formally took upon themselves the burden of the Law were never called Jews or Israelites, but proselytes;* that the church is never considered Israel in any sense;* and that Gentile believers are never called Jews or Israelites in the New Testament.* So whether the church as a whole or individual Jewish or Gentile members within it are considered, no valid argument can be raised to show that the church or any of its members is under obligation to any Mosaic law. (To follow-up on items with asterisks, see footnote 2.) This does not mean that the believer is not under a biblical system of law, and this, too, will be addressed.
Because the Law has been abolished and the
believer is not under the Law, he has no obligation to obey any of
the laws of the Mosaic
Romans 8:2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Acts 15:8-10 makes it clear
that neither Jewish nor Gentile believers are obligated to the Law:
Also, in Galatians 2:3, Paul resisted pressure to circumcise the Gentile believer Titus.
Believers are free from the bondage of the Law.
What, exactly, is the bondage of the Law? Let us observe some contrasts and then draw our conclusions.
Romans 8:15 contrasts the spirit of slavery to the Law with a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
1 Corinthians 15:56-57: 56. The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57. but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 2:4 contrasts the liberty which we have in Christ Jesus with the bondage of the Law.
Galatians 4:3-6 contrasts bondage under the elemental things of the world (the Law) with the adoption as sons in whom God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
Galatians 5:1 contrasts
freedom in Christ with the
yoke of slavery of the Law.
Galatians 4:22-26 contrasts Sarah, the free woman, the mother of the children of promise, with Hagar, her bondwoman, who represents Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves.
Galatians 5:18: But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
In Hebrews 2:14-15, Christ died that He might . . . free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
Bondage to the Law, then, may be defined as required obedience to the Law while in a state of powerlessness to keep it. This bondage resulted in, and included, bondage to sin, eternal condemnation and fear of death. (Though God provided the sacrificial system by means of which Israelite and proselyte transgressions could be "covered" until Christ would die to forgive the faithful among them, none had yet entered into that state of forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life because Christ had not yet died and risen.)
The bondage of the Law is
set in contrast to the liberty of the believer who is forgiven of
sin, is able to be led
by the Spirit in power over sin, and live in the blessed
hope of eternal life. It is the difference between being a beloved
son of an
"Abba! Father!" and being
a slave under
Condemnation is the judicial pronouncement of guilt, and may be human or divine. It is the opposite of justification, which, in the divine context, is the declaration of being in right standing with God. Divine condemnation may be temporal or eternal.3 One who dies in unbelief is eternally condemned, and must spend eternity in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14-15), but the believer is never eternally condemned. The Law brought condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:9; Galatians 3:10); but now that the Law has been abolished, no believer can be condemned by the Law.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE." (Galatians 3:13)
He [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
So, here's "no" summary of what not being under the Law means for the believer: no obligation, no bondage, no condemnation. To expand a bit, no obligation, no bondage, no powerlessness, no unforgiveness, no condemnation, no fear of death. No kidding!
Two more no's may be added to the above, but they are in a different category. The above no's were yeses under the Law, but the no's of justification and sanctification were not.
Justification. Justification has to do with one's legal standing before God. The believer has sinned; but because he is "in Christ" he is declared righteous or justified by God because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to him: It has been placed on his account. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which God gradually conforms the believer's walk to the holiness of Christ's. (Romans 6:19; 8:29; 12:2; Philippians 1:6; 1 Timothy 4:3)
Despite the fact that the Law had become inoperative, some early believers were under the notion that they needed to combine obedience to the Law with faith in Christ for justification and sanctification. Some today are under the same notion. However, the following passages attest that the Law never contributed to either:
1 Corinthians 1:30: But by [God's] doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption. Old Testament saints were called righteous or just, but only in the sense that their sins were "covered." It took the death of Christ to confirm their justification in actuality.
The Law made nothing perfect. It did not justify, nor did it sanctify the believer in the sense of transform[ing] him to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29; 12:2).
The above passages apply to both justification and sanctification. We will now view passages that apply to one or the other.
Romans 3:20: by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight.
Roman 3:28: For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
Galatians 3:11: Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
Before the Lord's ascension, the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:39), and the following passages show that it is only by the Spirit that the believer is sanctified. Therefore, since the Spirit was not yet given under the Law, the Law did not sanctify.
Romans 8:13: if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body
1 Peter 1:1-2: 1. Peter . . . to those . . . who are chosen 2. . . by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ.
The above passages show that sanctification takes place in Christ by the agency of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, in Colossians 2:20-23, Paul teaches that placing oneself under a set of rules for the sake of sanctification is futile: 20. The elementary principles of the world . . . such as, 21. "Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!" . . . . 23. . . . are of no value against fleshly indulgence.
There are valid, though not obligatory, reasons for observing certain Mosaic laws, and these will be discussed; but it is never valid to observe any Mosaic law for justification or sanctification.
Though the believer is not under the Law of Moses, he is not in an antinomian (lawless) state. He is under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), also called the law of liberty (James 1:25; 2:12).
According to Finis Dake, "There are 1050 commands in the N.T. for Christians to obey. Due to repetitions we can classify them under about 800 headings."4 - and heeding them is as serious a matter as heeding the commandments of the Law was because transgressions under both bodies of law contributed to Christ's death.
Nine of the ten Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) have been resurrected in the Law of Christ. It would be misleading to say that they appear in the Law of Christ as they have been abolished, nailed to the cross. They have died with Christ and have been resurrected in glorified form.
The following study is courtesy of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.5 The wording and scripture references are his, but I have added the scripture texts.
1. The Sabbath Commandment
Hebrews 4:9 reads, So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. This verse is often misinterpreted to mean that the believer is required to rest physically on the seventh day of the week - but verse 10 interprets it as enter[ing] His rest, the rest that comes through obedience to Christ as opposed to one's own works, that is, to any other course of action. This is brought out by verse 4, which quotes Psalm 95:11 and refers to the general disobedience of the Israelites in the wilderness (Psalm 95:10).
In the following passages, which apply to the Sabbath commandment in the Law - and the Sabbath commandment prior to the Law - Paul affirms that the Sabbath rest for the people of God does not refer to physical rest on the seventh day of the week:
Romans 14:5: One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.
Colossians 2:16-17: 16. Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - 17. things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.
In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus disclosed the nature of the rest that is in Him: 29. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
The Sabbath rest for the people of God refers to a rest of the soul, not of the body.
2. Further Considerations
Romans 14:5 and Colossians 2:16-17, cited above, likewise make it clear that the believer is not required to observe any of the Leviticus 23 feasts. Neither is he required to keep the kosher (dietary) laws (Matthew 15:11; Acts 10:9-15; Romans 14:14,20; 1 Corinthians 10:25; 1 Timothy 4:3-5; Hebrews 9:10), nor the laws concerning tithing. Tithing is mentioned in the New Testament only in reference to giving under the Mosaic Law.
The key passage for New Testament giving is 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NKJV): 6. But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. The key principle is Let each one give as he purposes in his heart. We are encouraged to give bountifully, but not to the point of doing so grudgingly or of necessity, which obligatory tithing often engenders. Giving according to these New Testament principles guarantees that one will be a cheerful giver, which God loves.
VI. BLESSINGS OF THE LAW FOR TODAY
The Law was abolished - but what, exactly, was abolished? The Law of commandments contained in ordinances (Ephesians 2:15). The Law was abolished as a rule of life. It was not obliterated from the pages of Scripture. We can still read it, study it, and be blessed by it in various ways (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Many blessings can be reaped from the entire Old Testament, but our focus will be strictly on the commandments of the Mosaic code.
The chief value of the Law today is its capacity for instruction.
1. Types and Prophetically
3. Understanding Israelite Culture and
4. Preparation for Keeping Parts
of the Law
Though no one is required to keep any part of the Law today, one may validly choose to keep certain parts of it for various reasons, among which are:
1. To Affirm Our Love for Our Heritage
When I became a believer, my Orthodox Jewish mother almost lit a memorial candle. Almost twenty years later, I flew from Hawaii to Florida with my wife and two daughters, wore a yarmulke (a skullcap, a custom that has gained the force of Orthodox law) and celebrated the Passover with my parents and a brother. My brother later told me that my mother said, "I can see how Christianity is good for him." There was more to it than that! but she saw that I loved and respected my Jewish upbringing, and that blessed and honored her.
3. To Avoid Causing a Weaker Brother to Sin
5. Fellowship, Teaching,
Learning and Jewish Evangelism
1. Kinds of Laws
2. Reasons and Motives
This section is really an addendum; but since many confound the rabbinic with the Mosaic, and much messianic practice is rabbinic, it would be helpful to distinguish between the two and draw some applications.
Mixture of Mosaic and Rabbinic
Rabbinic law has its roots in the Written Law, and some of it is Mosaic; but far more has been added. For example, the Mosaic Law commands, You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother (Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21), an ancient Egyptian rite. The command is very specific: boil, not roast; not just any animal, but a goat; not just any goat, but a young goat; not just any milk, but the milk of its mother. Nevertheless, out of this command has grown the rabbinic need for two sets of dishes to keep even the tiniest specks of any kind of meat and dairy from being consumed together, the need to wait a half hour (or hour with some) after eating dairy before eating meat, six hours after eating meat before eating dairy, and much more.
Keeping Rabbinic Law in General
However, they may be observed for the same reasons noted above for keeping Mosaic laws, and with the same caveats.
2. Praying the
In Matthew 7:6, Jesus instructed, And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. The Greek for meaningless repetition is battologeo. One definition that Thayer gives is "to repeat the same things over and over." Strong defines it as ". . . to prate tediously: - use vain repetitions."
Having just spoken these words, the Lord could not possibly have meant that "the Lord's prayer" immediately following in verses 9-13 was to be such a prayer. He said, Pray, then, in this way. He presented it as a pattern for prayer that contains particular elements in a particular sequence. Nowhere is it recorded that He or any other believer repeated it. All recorded prayers of believers were extemporaneous.
I would therefore say that, at the very least, if there is no strong rationale for instituting or retaining liturgical praying, then it ought to be avoided or eliminated and replaced by extemporaneous praying. Such rationale may conceivably include accommodating a significant number of new Orthodox or Conservative Jewish believers until they are weaned away from liturgical prayer, or when working with similar groups in Gentile populations such as Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox, where liturgy has the force of law.
Theologizing is easy. Application is, at times, difficult, especially for pastors, who know that bringing their flocks to maturity is a process.
These point are certain:
3. Who May Pray?
Based on verse 42, it is likely that many of these meetings were called and overseen by some whom the Lord was raising up as leaders. Certainly, the apostles led some of them. In other words, such meetings functioned as incipient local congregations where everyone had the liberty to pray.
Distinguishing the Mosaic from the Rabbinic or Cultural
Christian and the Law Sequence
The Abolition of the Law: Part 1
The Abolition of the Law: Part 2 - What it Means to the Christian
For relevant studies, please
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Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum,
Dr., Messianic Bible Study 021: The Eight Covenants of the Bible, p.